The last beautiful days of autumn sets stage for Kennecott crew
Who would have ever thought that studying history could lead to a bad case of blisters? It may seem odd, but when you’re part of a Kenny Lake School documentary crew in search of the perfect video shot, blisters are just a natural byproduct of hiking for six hours in the rugged Wrangell Mountains.
Five members of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway crew journeyed up to Kennecott September 7-9. Their to-do list was impressive: film a variety of narrations and re-enactments, tour the Kennecott mill building, and spend a day hiking up to Bonanza Mine to film a re-enactment of the discovery of the copper lode by Clarence Warner and “Tarantula” Jack Smith in 1900. The hike was long and arduous, accented by beautiful fall colors and a black bear sighting. Several students complained of blisters, and all were worn out by the end of the day.
Up until the crew’s film departure date, the weather had been stormy and temperamental. When the crew arrived in Chitina on September 7, cloudy skies seemed to be what lay in store. Nevertheless, the show went on. Emmie Van Wyhe delivered some memorable quotes in the character of Margaret Breedman, a schoolteacher who wrote a book about the interesting events and people of Cordova and Chitina during the railroad days. When the crew arrived in Kennecott by mid-afternoon, they toured the Kennecott mill building, and ammonia leach plant with National Park Service Ranger Cassie. She did an excellent job explaining the various stages of copper production, from mining to loading up the oar on the train to Cordova and finally to the smelter in Tacoma, Washington.
On September 8 – the date of the hike to Bonanza – the weather cleared and a glorious day followed. The students enjoyed the early morning colors to film the conclusion of their documentary and a few other snippets. Next, they began the steady climb to Bonanza Mine with all their camera gear – boom microphone, high definition camera, tri-pod, and costumes. The hike was exhilarating. Near the final uphill grind before the mine, Audrey Shepherd spotted a black bear 500 yards away in a blueberry patch. The team watched the bear eat, lounge around, and eat again. The life of a bear!
Near the mine itself, the team ate lunch and staged a re-enactment of the copper discovery. Kegan Bowman and Wesley Voley served in the roles of Clarence Warner and Jack Smith. Several of the team members searched for Copper ore and shared their discoveries with the group. It was a great way to spend a day of school.
The team, which consisted of Audrey Shepherd, Emmie Van Wyhe, Kegan Bownman, Dirck Rosenkrans, Wesley Voley, chaperone Shawneen Bowman, teacher Ray Voley, stayed at the Lancaster Hotel in McCarthy. They cooked their own breakfasts and dinners on a picnic table in town. Later, while the adults relaxed, the students played cards or reviewed some of the video footage acquired during the day.
The documentary team is nearly finished collecting the necessary video footage. The next step will be to record Dirck Rosenkrans’s narration snippets. Then producers Wesley Voley and Kegan Bowman will begin to align the video, historical photographs, animations, music, and historical commentary into the documentary. The goal is to hold the premiere of “Iron Rails: The Story of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway” in April 2012.
This project has been made possible through grants and donations from major sponsors such as Alyeska Pipeline, the Alaska Humanities Forum, and the Alaska Learning Network, and from business sponsors such as Hem’s Charters who delivered a check for $200.00 to the crew during the Chitina filming session.
From left: Shawneen Bowman, Audrey Shepherd, Dirck Rosenkrans, Kegan Bowman, Wesley Voley, Ray Voley, and Emmie Van Wyhe comprised the documentary crew in Kennecott.
The fall colors create a glorious view with Kennecott and Root glaciers in the background. Photo by Emmie Van Wyhe.
There's oar in them thar hills! Photo by Emmie Van Wyhe.
Wesley Voley and Kegan Bowman re-enact the copper discovery near Bonanza during their film expedition. Photo by Emmie Van Wyhe.