Tag Archives: ruins

Knocking on Fortress Door


Erie Canal


The canal map at Gasport, NY

The Erie Canal spans from where Albany meets the Hudson River to where Buffalo meets Lake Erie. When completed in 1825, the 363 mile Erie Canal was the second longest canal in the world.


The Erie Canal at Gasport

Construction began at Rome, NY in 1817. The canal has 34 locks, with an elevation difference of 565 feet.


The Tow Path at Middleport, NY

When it opened, the canal cut transportation costs by 95%. 1855 was the canal’s peak year, when 33,000 shipments took place.


The Erie Canal at Middleport

The last large commercial ship retired in 1994, and the canal has seen mostly recreational traffic since. 42 commercial shipments took place in 2008.


Bridge over the canal at Middleport. The cafe on the corner is well worth visiting.


Fort Niagara


The French Castle

I headed out to Old Fort Niagara, which is located on a point, overlooking the Niagara River, at its mouth with Lake Ontario. Two “forts” preceded it, although neither lasted much over a year. Built by the French to protect their interests in North America, The French Castle is the oldest structure in the complex, having been built in 1726. The local native population tolerated its construction, because the building looks more like a grand home, than a fortification, which is exactly what was intended.


The layout of Fort Niagara

The fort played a significant role in the French and Indian War. During the Battle of Fort Niagara, the British lay siege to the fort for 19 days in July of 1759. The French commander, Francois Pouchot, surrendered to the British commander, Sir William Johnson, after learning expected reinforcements were massacred en route. Johnson, the leader of the New York militia, had taken over the British command when General John Prideaux stepped in front of a mortar test firing, and lost his head.


Battle of La Belle-Famille; painting of the siege of Fort Niagara

The fort would remain in British hands for the next 37 years. During the American Revolution, British Loyalists used Fort Niagara as a base, and protection from the Continental Army.


South Redoubt

Fort Niagara was ceded to the United States after the revolution, but was not occupied by American forces until 1796, after the signing of the Jay Treaty.

With the War of 1812, Fort Niagara once again saw hostilities. The fort’s guns were able to sink the Provincial Schooner, Seneca, but British forces would go on to capture the fort in 1813.


Fort Niagara’s flag, with 15 Stars, from the War of 1812

When the fort was captured by the British, the U.S. flag flying over the fort, was taken as a trophy of war. Eventually, it was laid at the feet of the Prince Regent in London, who would go on to be King George IV. The flag was promptly given back to the British commander of Canadian forces, Major General Sir Gordon Drummond. It remained on display in a hallway in his home for decades. The flag was damaged by a fire in 1969, and somehow forced into a washing machine for cleaning. Considering the size of the flag, 12 feet, six inches by 27 feet 3 inches, that must have been some washing machine.

Eventually, the flag was purchased by the Old Fort Niagara Association for $150,000, which paid for a new roof on the Drummond ancestral castle. It is now displayed in a climate controlled environment in the visitor center, which was renovated from a 1939 U.S. Army warehouse.


First floor of the French Castle

Fort Niagara was reenforced on the river and lake shore during the Civil War, mainly out of concern that the British may intervene on behalf of the Confederates. It continued to see action in one form or another throughout the world’s ensuing conflicts. Men were trained here for both World Wars, and a prisoner of war camp, with 1200 German soldiers captured in North Africa, was located nearby during WWII.

The Army officially deactivated the fort in 1963. Although, the U.S. Coast Guard still operates The Bottoms, making Fort Niagara one of the longest continuously operated military bases in the United States: 1726-present.

I had a great time out at Old Fort Niagara. The visitor center houses a decent museum, in addition to the 1812 flag. There is a short film on the importance of the area, and how the fort was originally built to protect the portage around Niagara Falls. There was also a musket demonstration out in the field. I hear there are reenactments that take place every year around July 4, with approximately 500 participants.


Monument commemorating the Rush – Bagot Treaty, 1934


Slow Motion

Has it really been four + years, since The Rover has traveled Outside? I received that reminder earlier in the week, which did catch me by surprise, I have to admit. Seems like just yesterday. Time does have the habit of sneaking up on you, doesn’t it?


The Rover traveling down Route 66

I clearly remember this section of Route 66. I was traveling along, the only vehicle on the highway, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a silver Porsche blew past me. I saw brake lights, and the Porsche hovered in the opposing lane, off The Rover’s left, front fender. The passenger window was lowered, and a camera, with an extraordinarily large lens, appeared from the passenger window pointed directly at The Rover & I. One click later, I received a “thumbs up” sign, the camera retreated back into the car, and the silver Porsche disappeared down the brick-colored highway in a flash.

“Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.”
— Hunter S. Thompson — at Kickin’ it on 66.


Bethlehem Steel Works

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm, T-Max 100


Canyon de Chelly Revisited

The Flagstaff Roadtrip


Canyon de Chelly National Monument

I took a road trip a while back to Flagstaff from Minneapolis with a good friend of mine. He is, in fact, one of the two official sponsors of Circle-To-Circle. These photos are from that road trip.


Smaller cliff dwelling in Canyon de Chelly

I had to hunt in the archives for the original post, and was surprised to find out that this trip was back in 2014. I was amused to see that my camera battery had died on the digital, and I was forced to bring out the film camera. So here we are, over four years later, bringing CtoC up to date.


Larger cliff dwelling in Canyon de Chelly

I absolutely love driving and camping across the American Southwest, and this trip was mostly a two-lane adventure. I think part of the desert appeal is that I’ve lived in the north country all of my life. The arid environment is so different. In Alaska, I’m rarely further than 25 feet from water in any one direction. For me, the West is very much an alien world.

Visiting Canyon de Chelly, both of us travelers, were hit by the bug to get into that national monument’s back country, but neither one of us has been back. Yet. Now that bug is crawling again.


Meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona

I put in the photo from Meteor Crater, partly because it was from the same trip, and partly because I think the black & white film does a better job of relating just how desolate that country is.

Camera: Kodak 66; Filter: Kodisc Cloud – Yellow; Film: Kodak 120 T-Max 100


Battle of Kiska

Operation Cottage:
15 August 1943
75 Years Ago


Kiska Island on the Aleutian Chain

The Japanese had occupied Kiska Island on Alaska’s Aleutian Chain since June of ’42. After the brutal Battle of Attu, Allied forces expected the same type of defense of Kiska from the Japanese.


Japanese Type A mini submarines on Kiska Island

Leading up to the invasion, the U.S. Air Force bombarded the Japanese positions on Kiska. In June of ’43, 407 bombing sorties were sent to the remote island, and even more in July. Japanese troop level was at just over 5100 men. Resupply of the island had become by submarine only.


Japanese tunnel to the beach

In August, bombing sorties increased even more. On August 4 alone, 135 sorties dropped 304,000 pounds of explosives on Kiska.* No Japanese troops were sighted by the bomber pilots, but that was not unusual, since the Japanese went underground during the raids.


Allied troops landing on Kiska Island

7300 combat troops landed at the main beach head. They were greeted by six dogs wagging their tails. One of the dogs was “Explosion”, the pup that was with the Navy weather station crew that was on Kiska when the Japanese invaded the island the previous June. In all, 34,426 Allied troops were a part of the invasion, which included 5300 Canadians.

As troops moved across the foggy island, occasionally a bomb or booby trap was set off, but no enemy soldiers were to be seen. Still, shots were fired into the fog by the jumpy soldiers.

The Japanese were no longer on the island. Realizing they could not defend Kiska after losing Attu, they had evacuated the island two weeks before the invasion.

92 Allied troops were killed, and 221 wounded. Most came when the destroyer Abner Read struck a Japanese mine causing 118 casualties. 4 Canadians and 17 Americans were killed on Kiska, and 50 were wounded, many by friendly fire in the fog. 130 men suffered from trenchfoot, of which only one was a Canadian due to their proper footwear.


Guns of Kiska

The Americans would not learn how or when the Japanese evacuated the island until after the war ended.


The Japanese Type A midget sub on Kiska today

Today, Kiska is part of the Aleutian Islands Wilderness, and the Japanese occupation site a National Historic Landmark.


The Navy Weather station crew on Kiska prior to invasion. Explosion is front and center.

*The Thousand Mile War

Photos courtesy of The Alaska State Library