(The Rapid City Journal said the first lab will be at 7,400 feet and will cost $15 million over the next three years to develop a working model.)
I went down in the elevator with members of the State Historical Society board and I was sort of proud of myself for descending that far underground.
Then I learned that daughter Jill went down to 8,000 feet, almost 2,000 feet deeper than I had gone. She was then a writer for the Tri-State Livestock News in Sturgis.
That was in the fall of 1981 – 21 years ago – when the Homestake was still mining for gold. Many things have happened since then.
The "treasure chest" of South Dakota has closed. Lead was in a panic, and the possibilities of a Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory was "up in the air," so to speak.
But now that the National Science Foundation has given the go-ahead for the project, those 1981 tours have a special meaning.
These 500 miles of tunnels should provide plenty of opportunities for the scientist to do their thing – and that includes lots of guys and gals from the state's colleges and universities who want to study and do experiments in the dungeon-like darkness. (I've got claustrophobia, so I won't be any competition!)
To think that a whole city was above us in 1981 is a little scary, but the miners didn't mind, and neither will the scientists.
I could never be a gold miner or somebody who does trigonometry or algebra, for that matter. Even two plus two is a challenge for me.
I'm just glad that somebody else has found a good use for that deep hole in the ground.
Moses and Fred Manuel would probably do cartwheels in their graves if they know what they started. They sold their claim to George Hearst and two of his San Francisco partners for a reputed $70,000, and the Homestake was the result.
The Hearsts and the mine were good for Lead. But falling gold prices – and a few other things – brought an end to a good thing in 2001 until the laboratory (or laboratories) became a reality.
It just didn't happen over night, and a lot of people were involved in securing the blessings of the National Science Foundation. They can be proud of their work. I sort of wish I could have been among them.
But I'm just glad I had the opportunity to go down where the lab (or labs) will be located. It's kind of success by osmosis, to stretch a point. I just wish I had gone deeper than Jill. It's demeaning for a father to be undergrounded by a daughter!
© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz