Archives for February 2009

Bringing 50,000 year old wood to Duluth

The largest piece, 40 feet long, as it is just pulled out of the trailer. It will make a great table for someone.

I heard about a shipment of wood that was coming to Duluth from New Zealand. We get cargo here from all over the world but this was different. This was wood that was in the ground 42,000 years before Lake Superior appeared on the earth. And that was 8,000 years ago. It was brought here by a company in Ashland called Ancientwood, LTD, not a bad name for a product like this. In New Zealand it had caused problems for farmers for years since their implements got stuck in it and it was hard to grow crops on top of it. With problems like that, why not send it to Duluth and then Ashland where Bob Robert Teisberg, founder and president of Ancientwood and his team can put it in their kiln, dry it out and then make beautiful furniture with it. They also send the wood out to other woodworkers.

Opening the shipping season on Lake Superior.

In the winter, Duluth is locked in by locks and usually by ice. In the dead of winter, the fleet of layup boats is limited to Lake Superior since the Soo Locks are closed. At the beginning of each season, and at the end, many boats, usually taking coal, take advantage of that additional time to travel between Duluth/Superior and Marquette, Two Harbors, Thunder Bay, Taconite Harbor and Silver Bay.

Every spring, we wait for the Soo Locks to open, usually around March 25th. Further out in the Seaway, other locks, closed during the winter, have scheduled openings in the spring. This year, the Montreal-Lake Ontario locks will open on March 31st at 8 am. The Welland Canal will open at the same time.

Of course, weather conditions may still interfere with traffic at any point on the seaway.

Traditionally, the boat, almost always a thousand footer that spends the winter at the Midwest Energy Resources coal dock in Superior, will be the first to crack the ice, usually taking a cargo of coal to Marquette. That boat this year is the James R. Barker (last season, it was the Mesabi Miner). She is expected to leave the dock this year around March 17th and will likely make 3 trips to Marquette, and/or to Taconite Harbor, before the Soo Locks open.

Other winter layup boats here will get a jump on the season loading taconite at the CN docks in Duluth and Two Harbor. Those trips are timed so that many of the boats will be waiting, with loaded cargo holds, just this side of the Soo Locks on March 24th.

Duluth, winter boats

Thursday February 19, 2009:  We have 12 boats in port for winter layup but they are pretty hard to find and not very colorful. This winter, we have the added treat of the Edward H. She has been sitting quietly behind the DECC since the middle of January, adding some color to a landscape that is either white or gray or both.