The Largest Piece of Float Copper in the World Took a Trip Across the U.P.
by Judy M Johnson, August 2010
copyright AAPS, 2010
Wouldn’t it be astounding if you just happened to see a monstrous 28 ton hunk of copper riding down the highway on the back of a truck? Well this happened early September, 2010.
Let’s back up a few years… in 1997, two men were using metal detectors on land they bought from a man who bought many acres of the old Quincy mine holdings just a mile or so from the main mine at the top of Quincy Hill NE of Hancock, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. They were amazed to find this very large mass of metal, which turned out to be the world’s largest piece of natural “float” copper. This copper was first formed by extreme heat from deep within the earth which melted the chemicals that formed nearly pure copper which filled crevices under ground. At about the same time as this (a billion years or so ago) large mountains were being formed by volcanoes and plate tectonics. This became the Keweenaw Range. Over four glacial ages, massive glaciers covered much of the northern hemisphere of the world. One recent History Channel show about the last glacial age, about 12 thousand years ago, estimated the weight of all that ice to be 68 thousand trillion tons. Movement of that has power to grind down mountains, and that’s just what they did. As the glaciers progressed and receded, they not only ground down the mountains of the Keweenaw Range, they revealed the copper, picked it up, dragged it around, and dropped it off…from the top of Michigan, across to the western end of the Upper Peninsula, with some into Minnesota. As the last glacier went as far south as to cover all the Great Lakes (forming and reforming them) some native copper was found in northern Illinois and Indiana all having come from that wonderful range in Michigan.
That brief history brings us back to the owners and their metal detectors on that piece of land near the Quincy Mine. It was discovered upon major digging, that this was a most unusual piece of copper. It was definitely glacial float copper. It has visible glacial striations and the end of it is folded under like biscuit dough. The dimensions are 15 feet at the widest, 13 feet across, with an uneven formation of its outside edges. Thickness varies from 16” to 4”. A local geologist estimated its weight at 40 tons using these measurements. We know its actual weight now it's officially weighed. When the copper was scaled on the flat-bed truck, it clocked in at only 28.5 tons. The crane scaled it at a wee bit over 28 tons.
Enter Fred Rydholm about 2001, Mr. Copper himself, who was told about this copper and went to see it. When he heard the owners had been trying to sell it to be preserved rather than to sell it industrially to be melted down, Fred determined that his group must save it. He was president of AAPS/Ancient Artifact Preservation Society (previously Ancient American Artifact Preservation Foundation.) After much convincing, and promoting of the idea, the board agreed, though we had very little funds or prospects. We made a $10,000.00 First Option contract with owners, Mr. K and Mr. M to raise the funds to buy the copper. But we only had 4 years. The end of that contract is late March of 2012.
This copper had resided on railroad ties right where it was found, all this time, in the woods, where few people had been privileged to see it. It’s hard to sell an unseen idea to most folks, and time is swiftly moving. What to do? Thanks to some supporters of AAPS, there is money in the fund, but not enough to fulfill the contract price of $350,000.
AAPS Board member, Carl Lindquist is executive director of Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Trust. He is expert at getting things done. His idea: move the copper to Marquette where it can be seen by thousands, and the move can be a Big Event which can garner big press. Ford Motor Company Historian, Bob Kreipke and producer, Janine McFadden are producing a film for PBS on the Ancient Industry of Michigan Copper and they were there to film this historic move. They will include “our” copper in his film scheduled to be shown spring of 2011 on PBS. This giant copper will GET SOME ATTENTION, and ultimately more funds coming in to save it.
Coordination has been quite a challenge, but Carl is up to the task. He got unanimous approval from Marquette City Council to host the copper for a couple years, at Presque Isle Park on the site of the old zoo. And it’s right across from
Superior Watershed Project offices in the old caretaker’s cottage. He engaged Moyle Construction of Houghton to lift it up and out of the woods and Oberstar Trucking moved it to Presque Isle. Lindberg's 100 ton crane lifted it to it's display site. A earthen berm has been built to put that copper semi-vertically so its massiveness will best be shown. A descriptive sign will be made and a secure donation “post” must be designed and installed. Then an intensive fund-raising campaign which will be off to a good start having had the publicity of the Big Move. AAPS is contracting with Carl Lindquist and Superior Watershed to be our campaign managers at a management fee of 2.5% of all funds raised by the campaign.
For more information, phone Judy at 906-942-7865.