Saturday, December 31, 2005

Abandoned Iron Ore Pier

In 1954, a massive expansion was undertaken by the Pennsylvania Railroad to create a pier in Philidelphia to unload imported ore from Liberia, Labrador, Venezuela, and other countries. This pier, stretching 850-feet out into the Delaware River, had 4 enourmous ore unloaders constructed on it at the cost of $1 million each. Ore could be scooped out of ships at the rate of 5,400 tons an hour, then funneled onto twin conveyor belts that took it to an unloading building or four storage domes. The unloading building had twin tipples situated over two railroad tracks, where ore was dumped into railroad cars. From there, it would head either to steel mills in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or farther west to mills in Pittsburg and Johnstown, PA and Ohio.
Imported ore was used because northeastern steel mills found local sources of ore becoming scarce, and as trade became more globalized in the 20th century, imported ore was cheap enough to be a feasible source. Notably, imported ore, mined thousands of miles away, processed, put in a train to a port, transloaded to a ship to arrive in Philadephia, then transloaded back into a train, and taken all the way to mills in western Pennsylvania and Ohio, apparantely was cheaper than using Mesabi ore mined in Minnesota.
Undoubtaby, the disparity in price was stemmed primarily from the degree to which labor and resources could be exploited in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Liberia, and others. Likely lacking in environmental laws and basic health and safety regulations, along with much lower wages and benefits, companies eagerly exploit the less-developed nations of the world in search of the greatest profit. This uneven trend of development, a key feature of a capatilist economy, is the impetus for the economic anarchy that causes centres of production to shift reckelessly and frequently around the globe.
The result is scenes like I present below, where millions, even billions, in infrastructure lies unused, and the lives of millions endure eroding standards of living. This pier was closed in the mid-nineties, not because the cost of imported ore became higher becuase of say, higher wages for foreign workers, but because these ever-decreasing wages made it unprofitable for existing U.S. steel mills to forge steel. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, many mills completely closed throughout the United States, completely devastating areas like Bethlehem and Pittsburg, Pa, while many other mills drastically reduced workforces. US Steel, which was the largest corporation in the world in 1900, only produces as much steel now as it did then.
To blame this devastating change, where tens or hundreds of thousands workers in the U.S. lost jobs and pensions, upon "globalization", only clouds the real processes at hand. Globalization is obviously an advancement : the allocation of resources and production throughout the world can be better organized, since is not constrained by national limitations (A Mitton Steel mill in Kazahkstan is in an ideal location, on the Neva River, with nearby coal and iron ore deposits)
Under a system of economy ruled by private ownership of production, these inherant advantages of global economy become compromised.
Mitton Steel, the world's largest steel producer, owns many of the mills in the U.S. that this abandoned ore pier served. A look at thier worldwide, facilities, though, shows that the greatest expendatures for upgrading facilities are going to eastern Europe, Kazahkstan, and Mexico. Why? Primarily because of conditions listed formerly, namely, cost of labor and regulation. Although most Mitton Steel facilities are in Western Europe and the U.S., the higher wages, worker's rights, environmental regulation, and other benefits of these areas is a burden to profit, so production, in the specific case of Mitton Steel, is being shifted to the europeon low-wage havens of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania, along with the other worldwide facilities.
This pattern can be repeated in every single aspect of the world economy, as industries leave the more developed countries to join in the constant, destructive search for the most exploitable labor force. The wealthy of the richest nations, whose priveledge is now built upon parasitic financial dealings, can only respond to the contradictions in world economic production by slashing the wages and benefits of the working classes of North America and Europe. As a result, the mass suffering continues, and billions in infastructure lies unused, as shown below.

The are the storage domes for the ore, though I think now their being used for another commodity. Their really quite beautiful shapes.

These little engines were used to push ore cars under the tipple to be loaded.

Standing just barely on the pier, I waited 6 minutes for this exposure of the conveyor house, tipple, and storage tanks. Security? Three concrete barriers surrounded by weeds, a bent but open gate, and a covered no trespassing sign on it . The two conveyor belts on the left took ore, unloaded from ships from Venezuela (supposedly), up too that tall, top-heavy building, where it was either dumped into waiting railcars, or conveyed further to one of four storage tanks. A railroad boxcar in front of those huge domes serves as a maintenence shed.

Farther out on the dock, the first, lone, ore unloader towers up, with an awkward pose of one arm up and the other extended.

Around this massive steel construct is a continous walway, defined here by its handrails. An enourmous steel bucket, with a central hinge and two peices (essentially, a steel mouth) could extend the legth of this arm, lower to scoop ore out of the hold of a ship, and then deposit it into a bucket that funneled it onto the conveyor belts. Walking out on the arm is interesting, as you look down only upon the murky, greenish, turbulent waters of the River.

Turned around 180' from the last picture.

Daytime Interlude

I was able to take some pictures from inside the motor house today of these ore unloaders. This is a bit blurry, though I think the effect is a good compliment to the hazy light shining in through dirty windows. Also, it seems to imply some sort of movement within the machinery... something I never see.

I'm guessing the panel on the right is the circuitboard. It ran the width of this structure, and included meters and dials about all the different aspects of the machinery. It was made by Westinghouse, who was responsible for the wiring in a plethora of industrial applications years ago.

I love the pattern that the decaying window and bars outside form. We couldn't figure out what that hand winch is for.

Looking out the window towards another ore unloader and the port and weed-strewn lots beyond.

The door into the motor-house, with my camera bag lying in it.

Friday, December 30, 2005

These two pictures are taken from the Ore pier, but of the Coal Pier. Here, trains of coal, from central and western Pennsylvania, and coal producing areas of West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio nearby, were dumped into ships for export. Two ships could be loaded at a time, because of the double railroad car dumpers to the right of this photo. Decades ago, the area off the pier would've been a massive assortment of coal cars waiting for dumping, along with various support facilities, but now, it is mostly overgrown, with several buildings demolished, and the extensive railroad trackage buried in mud. Currently, the pier itself is used to anchor barges, I even saw one depart while there, but their anchorage has nothing to do with this equipment on the pier, which has been unused since the mid-80s. Its closure was partially because of the depletion of eastern US coal mines, but primarily a result of the increase in cheaper world production. I'm finding very little information about this in general, but I'll guess, China, Australia, and various South American countries have taken the business.

Looking down the Ore Pier. Spilled ore lies everywhere. To the left is the coveyor that took ore unloader from ships to either storage or rail reloading.

Shoes of a worker, or a visitor?

A view of the active container point, from which a container ship had left about an hour ago. Exposure was about 30 seconds at F13

I climbed halfway up the ore unloaders, having gone the entire way previous in daylight. I stood motionless for minutes, partially in awe of the view, partially in fear of the precariousness of my position. This was only made worse as I attempted, on a narrow walkway, to unfold the tripod, and then take out the camera while holding an umbrella. The stress and fear was eventually too much, so I shot little from up here. The streak of light is a small boat leaving the dock, perhaps taking a pilot out to a departing ship.

I'm standing at the convergence of two flights of stairs and some horizontal walkways that lead to various parts of the loader. Above, still, are the arms that extend out over ships to scoop and (dump?) ore.

It was extremely tricky bracing against the wind and the rain, on this walkway, to get a decent shot. Rain got on the lense for this one. This is looking the other way, towards the shore, as I'm standing one of the last two unloaders.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Reference Photo

Heres a reference Photo for the other 23. This was taken in the early 90's, and it still hangs in my house, put up by a man who is indifferent to the current status of the pier, or the implications of the piers closing.
Regardless of how massive the loaders are, the ship makes them seem pitiful!


I just took 22 shots, each one a different composition. Only one turned out poorly, and it is presented here to get it out of the way.

I'm still posting it because I like the scarcely visible detail of steelwork. This was very dimly light area, and I accidentally cranked up the aperature, to F22, rather that down to F10 like I intended. As a result, a 6 minute exposure wasn't nearly enough, but at F22, what a nice range of focus! This is the view from the end of the peir, with the bumber of the railroad track in the foreground. I believe 5 monsterous unloaders tower over this track before its off the pier.

The All Pervasive Inequality of Capitalism

Here, surrounded by the ever-growing neighborhoods of $500,000 houses, and up the street from a salon/day spa, light fixtures store, and natural foods market, lies a single trailer home.

Next to it lies a little used or unused Mushroom facility. Before the swath of high income neighborhoods took over most land, mushroom farming was the cheif occupation of this area. Why the wealthy of the area have settled en masse amongst shit, I don't know.

This was a 5 minute exposure, as there was no light on this scene. I should've done longer, and focused better, but shots like this don't come in quantity. I'll get it some other time.

Part of the same complex, this photo has the same problems. I was trying to get two deer in the photo, they actually were standing a mere 15 feet away, next to the buildings, but I wasn't smooth enough. I'm not sure what these buildings were here for, but next to them is a moderately sized plant that used to produce plastic and rubber products.


This picture isn't very interesting... what was though, was that while I spent 20 minutes snapping away from this spot, a continously river of birds was going by- in this picture their seen as black specks in the top.
I was coming home today and was astonished by how looming and evil these new sign bridges look.

I liked how the yellow roped looked like it was holding the tree back, and then I noticed that root spiraling through the air, looking more like real rope that the cheesy, yellow nylon rope does.

I was asked to take some pet pictures. This, the first, was the best. The cat didn't know what the camera was, and came right up for inspection. After that, it was all hiding.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Materialist Outlook vs. The "Mysteries" of God's Universe

I went to a Chirstmas Eve service as a service to my family. That favor never works though, because my obvious dissaproval still angers them. This time, they were annoyed I spent most of the service with my head down, drawing my hand with the pencils used to fill out forms to give an "offering to Christ" I was really happy though- apparantely, I can draw my hand reasonably well, and it sure was alot better than chanting and listening to drivel. I caught some of the sermon though, a part where the preacher was marvelling at the "mystery of love, mystery of teenagers, mystery of birth, mystery of snow, etc." There should be no real debate over the reconcilability of religion and science.


Underside of Billboard.

This isn't normal muck. Through the ooze, railroad ties poke out, metal plates show a corner, and bricks masquerade as muddy stone. During the height american capitolism, what here is a pool of water were teeming railroad freight yards, while behind me industries served by water, rail, and road made this a hazy, bustling area. Now, the business is renting billboards.

The Save-A-Lot that owns this cart is at least two miles away. Carts can travel far on pavement, I've even found personally, but to get this through so much dirt and muck is a feat. I suppose the person gave up here.

These had the appealing color contrast of black and a orange/golderod/yellow


This sweater suggested someone trying to get over some viscious fence like this. Of course, it was just thrown up there.

mmm.... financial buildings. Commerce used to be centered in the foreground, next to this small river connecting to a very navigable one, but now it is centered in the background, in the towers of BANK1ONE, MBNA, Bank of America, etc. These instituations, the center of our current economy, derive their revenue and profit from extracting money from the masses of this country and the world. They don't actually produce anything.

I realize now that this is a very dark photo in B & W. Oops. Theres not much to see anyway, just a large, empty paved area, some outlet stores, and carictures of the former shipbuilding and manufacturing industries that used to reside here, in the from of an isolated smokestack and some waterfront cranes.

Having some beautiful marsh grasses in front of I95 and this mudflat makes it alot more attractive.


I see quite a few excavators, their outside my window every morning. I'm always drawn to watching them though, becuase their so evocative of creatures in thier movements. Its a nice, jerky, awkward, scary sort of resemblance too. So many of the metal tools suggest insects to me; this attachment reminds me of a jointed leg and its sharp tips. Really though, it just flips down, to provide a mock thumb to the bucket of the excavator, good for grabbing debris, steel, and such.

Alot of these recent photos are quite empty, just being my immediate reaction to a pretty form or interesting composition. But, I'm learning how to use this camera. For all of these shots, I have the aperture at F10, and I use a remote for the exposure length. On each new picture, all I had to touch on the camera was focus. Otherwise, I used a remote to start each exposure, and counted to what my guess was to how long it should be. Almost all of these subjects are the only photo I took, so it works pretty well.

Long exposure of the tree that's shadow was on the plain building.

Long exposures

I got a new camera, a Nikon D50. I spent several hours yesterday figuring it out.
The top exposure was an image of my waiting for the bottom exposure, namely, got the heater to turn on again and produce the steam. So, for that top picture, I just opened the shutter, and walked around for what could've been 4 to 8 minutes, and then finally closed it. The lower shot was obviously much shorter, probably around a minute.

I find this building so bland, I never would've thought I'd be taking a picture of it, but the shadow was so enticing.