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 St. Marys River, July 1, 2007.

Herm Klein

-- Mesabi Miner --

by George Wharton

The keel for this "super carrier", the fourth of thirteen "1,000 footers" built for various American flag carriers on the Great Lakes, was laid at the American Ship Building Company's Lorain, OH yard on May 15, 1975 as their hull # 906.  The bow and stern sections were built at Lorain and the 550' (167.64m) mid-body was built at Am Ship's Toledo, OH yard.  The completed mid-body was towed to Lorain and moved into the drydock in mid-October of 1976 to be joined to the stern section.  Hull # 906 was built at a cost of $45.1 million.  The new, giant self-unloader was one of a number of American ships built under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970 which allowed U.S. shipping companies to build new vessels or modernize their existing fleets by government guaranteed financing and tax deferred benefits.

The new self-unloading bulk carrier was launched February 14, 1977 as the Mesabi Miner.  The Mesabi Miner sailed on her maiden voyage June 7, 1977 from Lorain to load iron ore at Superior, WI.  On June 11, 1977 after arriving at the twin-ports of Duluth / Superior,  the vessel was formally christened Mesabi Miner at Duluth, MN for Moore-McCormack Leasing, Inc. and managers, the Interlake Steamship Co. (Pickands Mather & Co.) of Cleveland, OH by Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey.  The Mesabi Miner was named to honor the people of the Mesabi Iron Range who had encouraged the development of the mining industry in Minnesota.  She was the second of an initial 2-ship building program commissioned by her owners; the first vessel being her sister-ship and fleet-mate James R. Barker. 

The Mesabi Miner is powered by 2 Pielstick 16PC2-2V-400 single acting, 4 stroke cycle V-16 cylinder 8,000 b.h.p. (5,968 kW) turbo-charged diesel engines burning intermediate grade 280 fuel and driving 2 controllable pitch propellers giving the vessel a rated service speed of 15.5 m.p.h.    These engines were built by the Fairbanks Morse Engine Div. of Colt Industries International, Inc. of Beloit, WI.  She is equipped with a 1,500 h.p. (1,119 kW) bow thruster.  The vessel is capable of carrying 63,300 gross tons (64,317 mt) of iron ore at a mid-summer draft of 29' 01" (8.86m); the product being contained in 7 holds serviced by 36 hatches.  Her cubic carrying capacity for coal is 57,200 net tons* (51,892 mt).  The Mesabi Miner's self-unloading system consists of a gravity fed 3-belt hopper/belt system feeding a stern mounted 265' (80.77m) discharge boom that can unload up to 10,000 tons of iron ore or 6,000 net tons of coal per hour.  She is equipped with modern pollution control systems that effectively handle the ship's waste and cargo dust.

After her christening, the Mesabi Miner became the first "1,000 footer" to load at Superior's Burlington Northern Dock # 5 when a record 54,321 gross tons (55,194 mt) of iron ore was loaded on board on June 14, 1977 bound for Burns Harbor, IN.  This was the self-unloader's first cargo.  In 1979, the giant laker delivered a record 38,850 net tons (35,245 mt) of coal to the shallow port of Port Washington, WI.  A port record for Conneaut, OH was established by the Mesabi Miner when, on April 11, 1980, she took on 46,915 net tons (42,561 mt) of coal.  Also in 1980, the Mesabi Miner set a port record for that year at Escanaba, MI when 60,999 tons (61,979 mt) of iron ore were loaded on board.  The self-unloader was noted on June 15, 1985 to have been the first vessel of her size to have navigated the Saginaw River.  Then in October, 1987, the Mesabi Miner was sent in ballast to the Stelco docks at Nanticoke, ON to test the docking facilities there for their ability to handle these large self-unloaders.

The Mesabi Miner has been involved in very few major reportable incidents while sailing the Great Lakes.  On March 27, 1989, she ran aground in the St. Marys River while downbound with iron ore.  She was freed on March 29 but not until after ice pressure on the hull caused a small hole in her bow.  After leaving her lay-up port of Sturgeon Bay, WI, the self-unloader was damaged by ice again; this time while transiting the Straits of Mackinac on March 24, 2004.  She returned to Sturgeon Bay to have a resulting 6' (1.83m) crack in her starboard hull plating at the # 3 hatch just a few inches above the water line repaired.

At the conclusion of the 2006 navigation season, the Mesabi Miner was the final vessel to arrive for lay-up at the twin ports of Duluth / Superior arriving at Superior's SMET dock on January 19, 2007.  The large self-unloader opened the twin ports 2007 navigation season when she departed Superior on March 16, 2007 with a load of low sulfur western coal bound for the unloading dock at Marquette, MI, arriving there on March 17 becoming the first arrival of the 2007 season at that port.

The Mesabi Miner continues to sail the Great Lakes under the Interlake Steamship Co. flag in the coal and iron ore (taconite pellet) trades much as she has since her launch in 1977.

* The shipping industry standard measurement for coal is the net or short ton (2,000 lbs.).

Overall Dimensions (metric)
 Length  1004' 00" (306.02m)
 Beam  105' 00" (32.00m)
 Depth  50' 00" (15.24m)
 Capacity (mid-summer)  63,300 tons (64,317 mt)
at draft of 29'01" (8.86m)
 Power (diesel)  16,000 b.h.p. (11,936 kW)


Turning into Dock #2 at Two Harbors, MN,
June 23, 2007. Andrew Huxman

Lake St. Clair, June 29, 2007.
Alex & Max Mager

Passing Mission Point on the St. Marys River,
July 1, 2007. Herm Klein

Bow view, Escanaba, MI Jan. 2005.
Lee Rowe

Escanaba, MI Jan. 2005. Lee Rowe

Soo Locks, Rod Burdick

Detroit River, Sept. 2005. Mike Nicholls

Arriving Marquette, MI Dec. 2005.
Lee Rowe

Marquette, Dec. 2005. Lee Rowe

Soo Locks. Sean Whelan

Marquette. Rod Burdick

Marquette. Lee Rowe

Close up Marquette. Lee Rowe

Heading for the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and winter lay-up as the Mesabi Miner follows in the distance. Wendell Wilke

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Marquette. Lee Rowe

Crew change from mail boat. N.S.

Opening the 2007 season at Marquette, MI, backing in to unload coal, Mar. 17, 2007.
Rod Burdick

Unloading coal, Mar. 17, 2007.
Rod Burdick

Aerial view. Don Coles

Stern view. Don Coles

Detroit River. Mike Nicholls

Stern view. Mike Nicholls

Inbound Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. 2004. Jason Leino

Aerial view. Don Coles

Unloading coal, Marquette. Lee Rowe

Unloading in Lorain. TZ

Stern view. Todd Davidson

Approaching Poe Lock. Sean Whelan

Entering Duluth. Steve Haverty

Toledo Lay-up. N.S.

Detroit River, June 7, 2005.
Mike Nicholls

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