How has iron mine expansion and abandonment transformed the landscape of the Mesabi Range over the past 70+ years?
This Spyglass Map compares aerial imagery of the Mesabi Range captured in 1947 with aerial imagery from today to illustrate how the landscape looked more than 70 years ago.
What we see is a radically reworked landscape, where lakes appear and disappear, towns expand, move, and are consumed by open-pit mines, and tailings basins replace meadows and wetlands.
To navigate the map, first click the hide intro on the top of the map and then use the + and - icons on the top left of the screen - this lets you zoom in or zoom out of the current map extent (you'll note you can only zoom in so far). The home button will return to this main scene, which is modern day Hibbing, MN. You can move the spyglass around by clicking and dragging, and then navigate across the landscape by clicking and dragging the base map.
This section includes historic aerial imagery for the entire extent of the Mesabi Range - that's just about 100 miles to explore.
To see a larger version of this map, simply click here. This one map is a portion of a larger Story Map found here, which I will embed into website in a separate post shortly.
The historic aerial imagery included in this map were accessed and downloaded from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Historic Air Photos collection.
These images were then stitched together using AutoStitch (a remarkably easy to use free piece of software). Once stitched together into manageable clusters (roughly 10 sheets per cluster), I georeferenced these using topographic maps and modern aerial imagery.
I hope you enjoyed exploring! Did you notice anything that has changed about your particular landscape?
This work was supported by a National Science Foundation (Grant #R56645, Toxic Mobilizations in Iron Mining Contamination, PI Nancy Langston). Thanks to Nancy Langston, Don Lafreniere, and Dan Trepal at MTU for help getting these files on a server.
John Baeten is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Spatial Analysis of Environmental Change in the Department of Geography at Indiana University. He holds a PhD in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology from Michigan Technological University. His research aims to connect historical process to current environmental challenges, and to contextualize the environmental legacies of industrialization as meaningful cultural heritage.