Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tour of a Great Lakes Freighter -- Post 1

Last week a friend of mine had an opportunity to tour a Great Lakes freighter. When I was asked to go along, I jumped at the chance.

I took notes to record the details. Unfortunately, when I drove into the parking lot of the Drummand Island Dolomite Quarry, a shard of dolomite shaped like an arrowhead pierced through the tread of a 10-ply tire I had installed just a few days earlier. Although I knew the tire was going flat, I continued on the tour. When finished, guys who work at the quarry helped me change the flat -- I thank them for their help! Somehow in the chaos of dealing with the tire I misplaced my notes. I apologize to the crew of the Calumet for not being able to include all your names in this series of blog updates.

To access Drummand Island, you have to take a $12 round trip ferry from the village of DeTour, MI. Here is a shot as I drove off the ferry.

The freighter was tied up at the dock of the Drummand Island Dolomite quarry. Here is an aerial shot of the quarry -- the picture is from their web page.

Drummond Island is part of what geologist call the Engadine corona, which is a vast formation of dolomite originating on the eastern tip of Great Manitoulin Island and extending westward in a great arc to the vicinity of Manistique in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Dolomite, the underlying rock of Drummond Island, is calcium carbonate with a high percentage of magnesium carbonate. It gets its name from Dolomdeax, the French geologist who first identified it. Engadine Dolomite (named for the little Upper Peninsula community where it was first located) is the primary variety of dolomite of which Drummond Island is composed.

The Drummond Island Quarry that can be seen just to the south of the Drummond Island Ferry Docks, is a major producer of crushed and broken Engadine dolomite throughout the Great Lakes region. The quarry produces and ships out nearly a million and half tons of dolomite each year. Dolomite has uses in industry – steel making, glass making, paper making – even in the making of such medicines as Epson salts - but the steel industry is by far the greatest user.

In the late ‘twenties, T. L. Durocher, of DeTour opened the present Drummond Island Quarry to obtain rock for the construction and rip-rapping of docks and breakwaters on the Great Lakes. Mr. Durocher, a marine contractor, realized that the blocky nature of Engadine dolomite made it ideal for this purpose. Within a few years, several hundred thousand tons of it were quarried and transported for the repair and construction of marine installations at Frankfort, Mackinaw City, South Chicago, and other Great Lakes points.

Dolomite’s chief use is in the steel industry, where it is used in blast furnaces as a flux, and in open hearth furnaces and foundries as a refractory material. It also is an important source of the metal, magnesium. Its toughness and hardness, as well as its structural soundness, make it an ideal aggregate for construction, including asphalt and concrete pavements.

Dolomite’s high magnesium and calcium carbonate content gives it great value as a soil neutralizer, therefore it also hold an important place in agriculture.

Once blasted into fragments, dolomite is prepared for market by crushing, washing, and screening at the processing plant that is seen from the Ferry as you approach the Drummond shore.

The Calumet is actually the second freighter with that name. The first was launched in Detroit, MI in 1929 and was used until just a few years ago. The new Calumet was built in the 1970s. She is around 800 feet long and sails with a crew of 16. Here is a shot of the Calumet taken from the car ferry.

This shot was also taken from the ferry. The Calumet is loading crushed dolomite from the quarry. You can see how they use the boom to counter-balance the weight of the dolomite being loaded. They also use water ballast to counter-balance the load.

As we walked up to the freighter, we had the best view of the pilot house as well as the conveyor loading one of the cargo holds.

To board the freighter, we had to climb up the ladder which is electrically controlled (raised and lowered) from the deck.

Our tour guide was Daryl, who is one of the two chief mechanics on board. Here he is pictured with the freighter's cook.

Here are a couple of shots of the cook's domain: the galley and one of the break rooms. Food is available to the crew on a 24/7 basis. Members of the crew are not allowed, however, to enter the galley to cook up their own meals. In fact all of the jobs on the freighter are quite regimented. The safety and financial success of the operation requires that each crew member does his or her job.

1 comment:

  1. Great and informative photos and text. Big but often unnoticed facet of U. P. History and current economy. cf the huge NewPage quarry next to the old Calspar Quarry in Schoolcraft Co. Limestone on the St. Martins Islands near St. Ignace figured in early U.S.-British treaty negotiations........