On this particular Saturday afternoon the world was bright and alive with the sound of children’s voices, dogs barking, and the ubiquitous hum of motor boat engines. None of us could fathom that our adventure would leave the land of living and descend into the darkness of the dead. This is a true story of how some folks with the best cell phone deals still couldn't get service on Lake of the Woods as they paddled across
My name is Russell Gainer, and I led the
The plan was simple – by canoes it would take us forty minutes to cross the bay. We planned to explore
Sultana is one of the most famous gold mines on the
Mining operations commenced in the summer of 1892 when three small veins were discovered in the rock.
When we arrived at Sultana we found the sandy beach deserted of all life and the shore absolutely full of driftwood. It was a Beachcomber’s paradise. Beyond the dunes there was long grass and a dense forest that obscured all signs of any previous development. Just beyond the trees we encountered a crumbling rock wall holding back a mass of rusty barrels that was bisected by a narrow trail that snaked its way up a steep incline. A set of stairs had been cut right into the rock.
As we continued walking up the rise the rest of the island came into view. At the top of the hill we each stared open mouthed at a century old rock cut that was the throat of the number two shaft. In the jaws of this stone cavity we could see moss covered timbers set right into the rock. At one time these tree trunks had supported a sturdy platform on which miners might have worked the hoists. At one point I threw a stone down into the darkness and we listened as it ricocheted off the sides of the passage - we waited almost fifteen seconds to hear the splash.
Unaware of any danger I climbed down the rock wall to stand on the bed of timbers. Immediately I felt a blast of very cold air rising from the cave – although it was the heat of the summer there was still plenty of ice down there in the darkness. Trixie was the first to hear it – dripping water echoed up the shaft and between each drip there were other sounds, less natural.
In December 1899
When the gold seams faded away into the rock a few months later the organization hired explosive experts and ferried a mass of low grade dynamite to the site. As the TNT was lowered down into the pit there was an accident. History doesn’t record exactly what happened, but it does detail the deaths of four miners in 1901. Two men were buried in the rock at the bottom of the tunnel - it took a week’s digging to recover the bodies. Those are the two spirits who cries forever resonate in the darkness of the mine.
Trixie bade us all to shut up and listen. Just for a moment, as I peered into the darkness of the abyss I could hear the rope squeaking and then I too heard the faint echo of human voices… it sounded like two men whispering soft warnings to each other… The air grew even colder as their voices grew louder and every member of the expedition was paralyzed with fear – we slowly backed away from the rock cut and then quickly ran down the hill and back to the boats. It was seriously scary stuff – fear pervaded our very beings and it wasn’t until we were back in our canoes and well away from shore that we could discuss the experience. We laughed about it then, but I think it’s safe to say that each of us was overcome with fear.
When I researched the mine at the