Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte
It’s as far west as the salties can go. For those of you unfamiliar with Great Lakes lingo, a salty is a saltwater ship, and you won’t find one west of Duluth-Superior. To those of us who live at the eastern end of the Great Lakes, the western end may be relatively unknown. Every so often we’ll explore the shores of these five glacial souvenirs, and get acquainted.
Most lakes have fairly rounded contours. Lake Superior comes to a sharp point at its western end, where Wisconsin snuggles cozily into the lower curve of eastern Minnesota. That geography has shaped the history of two towns; made them first rivals, and then partners.
Superior, Wisconsin, was the first. England’s Hudson’s Bay Company had an outpost there as early as 1820, although an even earlier trading post at nearby Fond du Lac, Minnesota, 67 years earlier, would one day become a depot of the rival American Fur Company. Superior, formally settled in 1853, under the tutelage of a bevy of eastern capitalists and politicians, a consortium including Washington banker William Wilson Corcoran, Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Congressman John C. Breckinridge, stepped out ahead. Momentum increased when a military road to St. Paul, Minnesota, was constructed in 1856. Meanwhile, a rival had sprung up across the bay. Duluth, near Fond du Lac, was also settled in 1853 but, with no friends in high places, had only a population of eighty, seven years later. That changed when Philadelphia financier Jay Cooke became interested in Duluth as a lake port for the shipment of grain from nearby midwestern wheatfields to eastern markets. He was one of the sponsors of a bill in Congress to make harbor improvements at Duluth.
And improvements were necessary. Minnesota Point, an eight-mile long spit of sand, fifty feet in height, not only protected Duluth’s harbor, but made Superior closer to open water and therefore to shipping. When, in 1870, the bill failed in Congress, Cooke founded the Minnesota Canal and Harbor Improvement Company and began construction of a channel to sever Minnesota Point, opening the Port of Duluth directly to Lake Superior. The town of Superior, learning of the threat from their rival, sent representatives to Leavenworth, Kansas, the nearest Federal presence, to obtain an injunction against the project. The emissaries were successful and set off for home, galloping across the landscape, injunction in hand. But they underestimated the citizens of Duluth. Word of the legal prohibition raced ahead of them. Every able-bodied man in Duluth grabbed a shovel or a pick, rushed out onto the point, and completed the construction of the channel, hours before the injunction was scheduled to take effect.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
©2004 David Minor / Eagles Byte firstname.lastname@example.org
As young Makereti Thom learned of her Maori past she would have been told of how her ancestor, the great navigator Ngatoroirangi, trapped the sorcerer Tama-o-Hoi deep in the interior of the sacred mountain Tarawera. When the tourists began trickling in during the 1860s they climbed to the base of Tarawera to view the lake there and experience the thermal pools of the Pink Terrace and the seven-acre White Terrace on the hillsides above the water. (Later on the nearby region would attract "Lord of the Rings" film director Peter Jackson, who used it as stand-in for the land of Mordor). The tourists brought their pounds sterling and a local cadre of native guides sprang up, many of them women. But the cash brought its own problems, particularly alcoholism. Tuhoto Ariki, a local tohunga, or priest, became fearful for his fellow Maori. One night, at the end of May, 1886, a phantom canoe was spotted out on Lake Rotomahana. The Maori began taking the tohunga more seriously.
Sometime between June 9th and June 10th, tourist Edwin Bainbridge of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, would write, "This is the most awful moment of my life. I cannot tell when I may be called upon to meet my God. I am thankful that I find His strength sufficient for me. We are under heavy falls of Volcanoe." A short while earlier the trapped sorcerer Tama-o-Hoi made his bid for freedom. The triple-peaked Tarawera erupted and began shooting flames and smoke thousands of feet up into the cold, clear night sky. Then the lava barged through an underground fissure beneath Lake Rotomahana, hit the hydrothermal pools below, causing the lake bed to blow out. William Bird, another visitor described how, "Dominating all, hung the great cloud-curtain, gloomy and dark above, saffron and orange on its under-surface. From the cloud, great balls of flaming rock dropped from time to time, descending with a splash into the waters of the lake."
By the time accompanying strong winds had calmed and Tarawera had settled down, the villages of Te Ariki and Moura had vanished beneath the lava. Both terraces had vanished. Nearly 120 people died; local schoolmaster Charles Haszard lost five members of his family. And Edwin Bainbridge was called upon to meet his God, as the veranda roof of the Rotomahana Hotel collapsed over his head.
Among the well-known guides that survived the eruptions was Sophia Hinerangi, one of Margaret's aunts. She and several other guides were resettled further north, to the thermal valley at (F)Whaka-rewa-rewa, a living village museum today just outside Rotorua. It was there that Margaret Thom, fresh out of the Hukarere Native Girls' School decided she could best gain her independence by earning a living as a guide. Under the tutelage of Sophia Hinerangi, she took to the routine quickly and her knowledge of her twin heritages, as well as her beauty and her skills as a storyteller soon made Margaret Thom a much sought-after guide. A younger sister, Bella, followed in her footsteps.
One day, while leading a group of tourists, someone asked Margaret if she had a Maori name in addition to her Anglo name. Mentally searching for a plausible sounding name she suddenly thought of nearby geyser, and told the tourist, "My name is Papakura. Maggie Papakura." The name stuck, and soon other family members had adopted the new surname.