20th Century, Great Lakes, History, Lake Superior, Minnesota, Shipping, water, worship

Duluth Becomes World Port

This photo provided by Ron Walsh shows the Coalfax, a self-unloading ship that used to purvey the former canal system on the St. Lawrence River prior to the opening of the Seaway.

1959
Water from the seven seas christen the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean and making Duluth a world port.*

Before the date of this stellar achievement on June 26, 1959, the Twin Harbors of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin could only receive the payloads of “lakers” and not “salties”. A “laker” is a cargo ship loosely defined as 260 feet long or less, with straight sides, and a snub bow to maximize cargo space. Ocean-crossing “salties” are freight vessels up to 740 feet long with a beam (width) of up to 78 feet with v-shaped hulls, sharper bows, and cranes on deck to offload its cargo. According to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the St. Lawrence Seaway enabled the Port of Duluth-Superior to become North America’s most inland seaport. **


To fill in the backstory of the St. Lawrence Seaway, this feat of civil engineering began in 1954 with the agreement of co-operation by the nations of the United States and Canada. To accomplish this behemoth task, 22,000 workers were employed for six years. They excavated 210 million cubic yards of earth and rock, pouring about 6 million cubic yards of concrete to complete its 7 locks. These locks enable ships entering at the Atlantic Ocean to rise approximately the height of a 60 story building as they sail to Duluth, Minnesota 2,342 miles inland. ***

It’s namesake, St. Lawrence, was “responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor”. **** What an apt association, as this seaway primarily connects the economies of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North America! So, what is the impact of this miracle of civil engineering presently?

“The Great Lakes–St. Lawrence region boasts a massive geographic footprint, and is a major driver of the North American economy. With economic output estimated at US$6 trillion in 2017, the region accounts for 30% of combined Canadian and U.S. economic activity and employment. The region’s output ranks ahead of Japan, Germany, the U.K. and France, and it would rank as the third largest economy in the world if it were a country, behind only the U.S. and China—notably, the region overtook Japan a few years ago. Quite simply, the economic importance of the region can’t be overstated.”


Circling back to Minnesota, we reckon the gravity of connecting Duluth Harbor with the Atlantic. According to Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokesman Jayson Hron, a single vessel can carry the equivalent of 2,340 trucks and handle 36 million tons of cargo in a season. This traffic is “far and away” the largest total amount of goods loaded and unloaded at any port on the Great Lakes.
**

Now, we modulate away from briefly reporting some facts about the Saint Lawrence and Twin Harbors into inviting and adoring our Heavenly Hydrologist. We are in awe of this world You have made! Every component of the cosmology, the geology and hydrology of this planet is fashioned with such precision and minute attention to detail to enable the balance that sustains all life! Calling You the “Watchmaker of the Universe” is a crude insult to Your abilites. If the only revelation humanity had of Your Existence was the creation of water; it would be sufficient proof of Your lovingkindness! What an apt symbol water is of Your thoughts towards all people and every member of creation: we can wade in it, take a swim, fish and gather so many foods and minerals, use it to enable growth, use it as a lubricant, cutting, cleaning, or cooking agent, for boating or recreation, and as a highly efficient means of transportation! You are the Only! No one but You has a mind like this!

Yet, within all these benevolent thoughts, You invite us all to come and know Your incredible mind! You want share? With us? Let me pause and remember Your words before I continue.

“But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” I Corinthians 2:14-16
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what G-d’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

A dear brother, author David Murry, encapsulated this invitation of the Messiah in his book “The Mind of Christ”.
“We can only walk in the blessing of His mind and His ways to the degree that we know what they are.”
And so we respond today, “Come and reveal Your thoughts in this creative event of June 26, 1959. Come and open the doors of history to us, so that we know and remember our new identities. Heal our past. Free our present. Bless our futures together!”

As we watch this history with You, the first area of conflict that comes to mind is environmental. Do we have the right to alter the earth’s surface and waterways to our liking? Proponents of a pristine and un-altered earth may object vigorously to the massive primary alterations of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in terms of excavation alone. The banks of these waterways, as well as the harbors of the Great Lakes, are permanently changed to enable their traffic-control and ports. Did these human-initiated changes spoil their respective ecosystems and the life they sustained?

We continue analyzing this area of conflict from the standpoint of those who believe that the we are Your stewards of the earth which are allowed to manage our environment. If we believe that You placed resources on the earth to be shared by all, how does one share regional resources if they cannot be moved to places of want or need? In reverse, how does Minnesota satisfy the deficits in its own pool of natural resources if it remains landlocked?

Granted, Perfect Steward, these are only notions scratching the surface of environmental impacts, but will You hear our prayer? We drown in judgments of each other as to the use of Your property without consider You or the council of heaven!? Will You first heal our lack of humility and acknowledgement of Your interests in all human land and water use? Will You take the bitter-root judgments of environmentalists towards the pragmatists in the formation of the Saint Lawrence Seaway System and Duluth Harbor, and vice versa, up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?

Next, we address the judgments of these waters and ports based on our economic or political biases. Northern Minnesota of 1959 has already endured perhaps 80 years of struggle between the capitalist and the socialist. Spotty relationships between the owners of iron mines and timber claims and their workers created an uneasy, perhaps co-dependent, partnership in which no one could fully win. If the unions “won”, it would be a Pyrrhic victory; yes wages and benefits would rise, but then the owners would cut jobs. On the side of the employers, they could squeeze concessions from unions, but they could not produce without their rugged work ethic or skills.

Given this cultural aura to Duluth Harbor and the Saint Lawrence System, will You guide us to Your thoughts on this issue? This is what we know about the labor side of this coin; 22 thousand workmen were employed for six years in its creation, and this initial effort presently effects 52 million jobs. *** When zoomed out to a bird’s-eye view, this seems an astounding and unbelievable success for labor; a 2,363.63% increase in jobs, and an average yearly increase of jobs of 38.7% over the span of 62 years!?!

Again, let’s return to the question of the businessmen in this era, and what are some simple facts we know.
“According to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the cost of the navigation project was $470.3 million (Cdn), of which Canada paid $336.5 million and the U.S. $133.8 million.”
Though I don’t have the actual numbers committed by Minnesota’s investors in the Seaway and Twin Harbors, we can read between the lines as to what these accomplishments meant to them as a group. This investment of CDN $470.3 yielded a fair return: its is the gateway of 30% of the economic activity of the USA and Canada, and represents a valuation of $6 trillion in terms of the US gross domestic product!?!

All this to say we owe You an apology Lord! Both halves of this political and economic battle have known amazing gains, but still seem to suffer wounds of distrust from the past. We are not to be co-dependents in Your economy: these parties are both dependents of the abundance of Your table. Heal us in our regional distrust of the owner, the capitalist and the outside investor! Heal us in our regional ignorance of the utility of our resources to the world, and a truly free market as opposed to state capitalism! The Enemy wants us to scrap over a larger piece of a small pie, but You, in this case, make the pie 2,363 times larger!

We praise you for Your generosity of Your natural resources!
We remember that You grant us permission to wisely steward and manage Your lands and waters!
We are ashamed in Your Presence at: our historical fights, our broken self-images as beggars and sibling rivals, and our failure to honor Our Father’s love towards our human enemies!
We are grateful for the engineers, geologists, hydrologists, and workmen of every kind who unlocked the interior of North America!
Will You be the system of locks that enable us to traverse the obstacles of broken human relationships, and raise us to a new level of chesed?
Let our harbors and seaways flow with You in tikkun olam!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** Gliaoto, Katie. “Is Duluth the most inland seaport in North America?”. StarTribune online. Internet. June 28, 2019. https://www.startribune.com/is-duluth-the-most-inland-seaport-in-north-america/510139371/?refresh=true
*** Please read this wonderful detailed article at the website of Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Seaway System. https://greatlakes-seaway.com/en/the-seaway/
**** Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). “St. Lawrence”. My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate – Quality Catholic Publications. pp. 176–178
*****BMO Capital Markets, Spring 2018.
****** Zajac, Ronald. “St Lawrence Seaway at 60: The project that changed the region”. Montreal Gazette. Internet. April 26, 2019. https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/seaway-at-60/st-lawrence-seaway-at-60-the-project-that-changed-the-region/

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