Duluth, MN Part III: Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center
Superior, WI - Events of Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center is a free museum operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is located at the foot of the Duluth Lift Bridge about two or three blocks from where we parked for the Vista Fleet cruise and the SS William A. Irivn. Since our $3 parking fee was good for all day, we decided to walk over there to check the visitor center out.
It was mid afternoon, and we were hungry. The 2011 Zeller Foodie Tour was in for a treat, because there was a Triple D restaurant on the way to the museum called Northern Waters Smokehaus. The Smokehaus is located in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace. The building was built in 1909 for the DeWitt-Seitz Company, which was a furniture and mattress manufacturer. The building was renovated in 1985 and now contains upscale retail and office space and numerous restaurants.
We wound our way past several other restaurants and a couple of gift shops and made our way to the Northern Waters Smokehaus.
Northern Waters Smokehaus specializes in smoked meats and fish, which they sell by the pound.
The Smokehaus also sells sandwiches, and they have a few tables on a deck outside the building, a few stools inside the shop and two small tables in the hallway. The sandwich featured on Triple D was the Pastrami Mommy, which is made from their own bison pastrami, topped with provolone, sweet Italian peppers and greens. The sandwich is made with pumpernickel bread and served with mustard and mayo. We decided to order a Pastrami Mommy and a Cajun Finn (to the left in the photo below) to share. A Cajun Finn is smoked salmon with Cajun spices, green-onion cream cheese, roasted red peppers, sweet Italian peppers and lettuce on ciabatta stirata bread.
Our favorite by far was the Cajun Finn. The salmon had a nice, smokey flavor. The sweetness of the roasted red peppers complimented the slight tartness of the pickled Italian peppers. The pastrami was good, but Paul thought they went a little overboard with the Dijon-style mustard because the strong flavor of the mustard overpowered everything else on the sandwich.
With our bellies full, we walked the last block or so the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. The visitor center is located in a small park along the Duluth Canal.
Inside, there are numerous displays relating to shipping on the Great Lakes. The photo below is a two-cylinder piston steam engine from a tug boat. This engine is almost two stories tall, which is typical for a vertical piston steam engine. Later steam turbine engines such as the ones in the William A. Irvin were much more compact.
Iron ore was probably the most important commodity to the early development of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior. High-grade iron ore (the two piles in the center of the photo below) contains 50 to 60% iron. The high grade ore that the United States relied on so heavily for World war II was just about mined out by the end of the war. Lower grade ore called taconite containing only about 25 to 30% iron became the new source for iron.
In the 1950s, a method was developed to concentrate the taconite ore to about 65% iron and form it into round pellets about ½ inch in diameter (the pile to the left in the rear in the next photo). The pellets are more economical to ship because the ore is more concentrated, and the round shape makes the pellets easier to handle. Then in the 1980s, a further enhancement was made by adding 1 to 10% limestone to the pellets depending on customer specifications. The pellets with limestone added (the pile to the far right) are called flux taconite or sweet taconite. The addition of limestone increases the efficiency of the blast furnace.
The display in the next photo showed the location of various ports and locks around the Great Lakes.
The visitor center has many scale models of ships including the one of a Canadian freighter pictured below.
We've spoken several times about the Edmund Fitzgerald. She was the freighter that went down in a storm on Lake Superior in 1975 with all 29 hands lost. A few days after the sinking, the wreck of the Fitzgerald was discovered in over 500 feet of water near Whitefish Bay by Navy aircraft using magnetic detection equipment. There were several later manned and unmanned submersible dives to the site. The visitor center has a scale model that depicts how the Fitzgerald is lying on the bottom. The ship broke in two, and the stern is upside down.
As we walked back to the car after seeing the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, we saw something that reminded us why we would have a hard time calling this area home. All the fire hydrants in this whole area, not just the ones in suburban areas, but also those in the city, have 6-foot reflective markers so the hydrants can be located when it snows. Yikes!
There's lots more to see in Duluth-Superior, so stay tuned.