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Woods, Water and Worse/Jim Junttila

Keweenaw Earthquake: Rupture or Rapture?

March 19, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

What would you do if a surprise magnitude 7 earthquake rattled, rocked and rolled the Copper Country under the cover of darkness, snapping the Keweenaw Peninsula off at its weakest link, the Portage Canal?

WW&W Opinion Dynamics Poll revealed most people would run like heck. Some fundamentalists, on the other hand, rejoiced prematurely, thinking they were getting raptured off, then wept and were bummed out to hear it was just a rupture in the earth's surface, not the rapture after all.

"While they're arguing about whose fault it was, blaming infidel sinners for provoking God's wrath and causing the earthquake, seismologists and geologists agree it was the Keweenaw Fault and nobody else's," said WW&W religion correspondent Penny Costal. The Keweenaw Fault extends about 100 miles from Bete Gris to Lake Gogebic.

The powerful fake quake instantly snapped, crackled, popped and pressure-cracked ice along the Keweenaw Waterway all the way from the Breakwaters to Portage Entry on K-Bay, much earlier than our usual spring break-up would do in its own sweet time.

The epicenter was located deep in Quincy Mine, miles beneath where they stopped ancient mining operations way back in circa 1968, opening deep fissures in the earth's surface and leaving a yawning abyss between Houghton and Hancock where the Keweenaw Waterway used to be. But don't worry, the icy waters of Lake Superior and K-Bay are rushing in from both sides at once and should refill the system shortly with fresh 10,000 year old water and all new fish. One can but hope.

"I just hope the water knows when to stop so we're not flooded out besides," said WW&W seismologist Sue Naami. "No matter what happens from here on out, it's been a lot cooler than I ever imagined the rapture and the second coming to be."

Insignificant aftershocks pretty much petered out by the time they got to Dreamland and the great irony of the fake quake was that Torch Lake went up in flames, but alert local volunteer fire departments were on the case and threw an impromptu all-you-can-eat fish fry, feeding the multitudes and raising thousands of dollars for a good cause.

Geologists date the Keweenaw Peninsula at least 1 billion years old.

About that time, according to Dr. William Rose, Dept. of Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences at Michigan Tech, a network of fissures formed down the middle of Lake Superior. This giant crack called the rift zone extended south into Kansas and lower Michigan. Great amounts of lava erupted from these fissures spreading thousands of square miles. The Portage Lake Volcanics, as exposed on the Keweenaw Peninsula, are about 1,095 million years old, representing roughly the upper half of this huge volcanic outpouring.

The quake touched off volcanic eruptions with temperatures exceeding a thousand degrees, similar to the surface of the sun, melting granite and basalt, and turning solid bedrock into molten lava.

The intense heat turned ice rinks from Michigan Tech to the Calumet Colosseum to water so hot it evaporated into thin air, bringing the hockey season to a screeching halt and dampening the spirits of Detroit Red Wing worshippers who believe "When hell freezes over we'll play hockey there."

The good news is while Chile's biggest export had been copper, their recent earthquake pretty much shut down mining operations, where our fake quake exposed veins of pure copper, reopening mines and reinvigorating the Copper Country's lagging economy big time. It's about time, too; from 1845 until the 1920s, we were a booming mining hub, the largest source of copper in the Western Hemisphere. It's nice to be back in the money for a change.

"The Keweenaw's financial future is as shiny as a brand new copper dollar," said WW&W economic advisor Jussi Raha, hinting at the Treasury Department's plans to reevaluate the monetary system based on the copper standard.

"After all the civilizations copper has built through the ages, houses it's plumbed and electricity it's conducted, it was always under-valued," Raha added his two cents worth, "It's high time we gave it the raise it deserves."

In other outdoor news, Verna Equinox arrived in town right on schedule and is getting all dolled up for her annual First Day of Spring celebration tomorrow. The MDNRE deadline for removing ice fishing shanties from area waters is March 31 if it's not already too late.

Jim appreciates your readership and support in his quest to write this totally fact-free column. He can be reached 24/7/365 at



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