Half a Mile Down

By Paula Wojcik
Trails Editor

What do you do?

I am the Interpretive Supervisor of Soudan Underground Mine. I am a naturalist by trade. My job here is to oversee the interpretive programs and work with our group of interpreters and tour guides. I arrange their training and offer my professional advice as needed.

How did you become an Inter-pretive Supervisor?

Well, that's a long story. I started out my interpretive experience working with residential and educational camps through my local YMCA. From there I went to nature centers, followed by a museum. At the museum I had to do first person interpretation of the French Fur Trade. I played the role of a voyageur which is more tied to the history aspect rather than the nature, which eventually led me here.

I was a business major in my undergraduate studies, which works well for my role as supervisor. I then went back to school for my graduate studies in environmental education with emphasis in outdoor teaching.

What do you like about your job?

It's never the same thing. History doesn't change, but seeing the kids come through on the tour of the mine and their faces and reactions to what they are seeing and learning - I love that aspect. Soudan has a lot to offer. This facility has so much with the historical aspect of the mine, but then on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the physics lab. We have history vs. science, and there is just so much there to absorb.

We also have a huge bat population and have been incor-porating educational programs about them for our visitors.

What are you working on now?

We are trying to redo the projects in our visitor center. They are about 20-30 years old, so we really want to update them. That project will probably take about two years to complete.

Also, with the State's Sesquicentennial we are really focusing on a historical program here. We have planned a Heritage Series covering the whole time period of the range and the mine. From 10,000 years ago through today, we will explore all the different aspects of the range and its impact on Minnesota.

What is your favorite aspect of the park?

I'm a history buff, so the mine itself is awesome to me. The people's interaction with history and what it was like - the lives of the miners - their whole reactions to it, I really enjoy that. Also, the physics lab just blows my mind.

What message do you feel is important to convey to visitors of your park?

History is alive. Even though the mine is no longer operational, it's still an incredible opportunity to learn its important aspects to Minnesota's growth and prosperity. Where else can you go a half mile underground and get in touch with Minnesota's history?

Also, many people don't know or don't realize that the mine was operational during both World Wars and played a huge role in providing the steel for the equipment used by the soldiers.

What has been your greatest experience working at Soudan Underground Mine?

There have been many. But last summer an elderly gentleman came to visit the mine. He had lived in Soudan for a year back when the mine was operational. Hearing his personal perspective on that era was really amazing. He shared many stories including one about a foreman who the mere mention of his name would frighten all the children.

I also really enjoy watching the young elementary students come through, and their not knowing the impact the mine had. And then, by the end of their visit, seeing their faces as they realize what amazing history they have right in their own back yard.

Historic Tour Specifics: The mine tour will take you half a mile down into the earth. Hard hats must be worn by all visitors of the mine. Physics Tour Specifics: Daily tours of the High Energy Physics Lab are offered twice a day at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Please note: Both tours are approximately 1 ½-hours. The mine is 50°F year-around. Public tours run from Memorial Day through the end of September. The park offers group tours to schools, colleges, organizations and businesses. There is a charge for the underground mine tour.



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