Michigan Tech
Divers Recover 17-Ton Copper Boulder

HOUGHTON MI -- "It is a gorgeous hunk of the Keweenaw."

So said Bob Barron of Michigan Technological University's geology and geological engineering department and coordinator of the recovery of a 33,000-pound copper boulder from Lake Superior.

Barron and two other divers secured foot-and-a-half wide straps around the boulder at a depth of 40 feet, and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers barge and crane lifted the specimen from the lake bottom.

The barge steamed back to shore with the somewhat turtle-shaped boulder and the crane went back into action, transferring it to a flatbed truck for a slow 15-mile trek to its new home.

Earlier in the week, dive crews had placed custom-designed nylon straps under the boulder, which measures 18 feet across, 8 feet wide, and more than a foot thick. It is the largest mineral specimen ever taken from Lake Superior.

"Everything went just perfectly," Barron said. "We got it to the surface, cleaned it off a bit with a fire hose, and you could see the colors come out. It is predominantly light green, with some brown, and even some blue areas."

The boulder is part of one of the richest deposits of copper on Earth, near Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the peninsula was the scene of the first mineral boom, providing much of the world's copper. The deposits stretched out under Lake Superior. For years, divers have explored a ridge of copper about a mile offshore and recently came across this copper behemoth.

The final destination, the Quincy Mine, is the site of the world's largest steam hoist that was used to send miners hundreds of feet into the earth and to haul the copper back to the surface.

The boulder will form the centerpiece of the new home for Michigan Tech's Seaman Mineral Museum, which is also the official mineral museum for the state of Michigan. Officials have raised $2 million of the $8 million needed for the museum's new home at the site of one of the most productive copper mines ever operated, the Quincy Mine in Hancock, Michigan.

The museum, currently located on campus, has the most extensive academic mineral collections in the world, including the largest collection of Lake Superior native copper.

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For more information, contact Dean Woodbeck (906-487-3327 or dlwoodbe@mtu.edu)

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of the "boulder-raising" are available in high-resolution digital format. Contact Dean Woodbeck.)

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