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You could win $1,000 by guessing when this 1998 Saturn will sink into a frozen lake

Mar 24, 2015

The ice is still thick in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. When do you think this Saturn will sink to the bottom?
Credit Rotary Club of Iron Mountain–Kingsford

The Rotary Club of Iron Mountain-Kingsford decided to reach back into history and bring back an old fundraising technique. Instead of the usual pancake breakfast or rose sale, this time around they’re having a contest that asks people to guess how fast a 1998 Saturn will sink into Chapin Pit.

“Well first of all, we decided that we were going to do this, and then one of the club members more or less raised his hand and he ended up with three cars in his driveway and his dearest beloved said, ‘Get rid of one of them because we can’t put them all in the garage,’” said Jeff DeRidder of the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Rotary Club.

Chapin Pit, where this 1998 Saturn is slowly sinking, is an old flooded mine that’s between 300-350 feet deep and filled with ice around one foot thick.

DeRidder believes the mine was built sometime in the early 1920s and that it was a “shaft-type mine and somewhat of a pit.”

After the mine was closed, pumping operations were halted to prevent groundwater from flooding into the mine.

“So the pumping stopped, and of course you end up with two lakes, or ponds, and they’ve been right in the heart of Iron Mountain, because Iron Mountain was built up around this mine,” DeRidder said. “It’s basically, to the residents now, it’s Chapin Pit. It’s right in downtown Iron Mountain.”

It was the local clubs of the 1940s, including the Lion's Club and others, who first made Chapin Pit a fundraising hotspot.

It was the local clubs of the 1940s, including the Lion’s Club and others, who first made Chapin Pit a fundraising hotspot.

“They put a car out on the ice and had a lottery as to when it would sink,” DeRidder said.

Car will be retrieved this time around

At that time in history, fundraising would happen, a car would sink and stay there, at the bottom of the pit.

That doesn’t fly with today’s environmental regulations. The plan is to haul the car back out with cables when the fundraiser is finished.

The Rotary Club of Iron Mountain received permission to send the car down into Chapin Pit from the city council and from the Department of Environmental Quality, provided that they first remove all the potential pollution-causing parts of the car - like the engine, gas tank, radiator, transmission and all fluids.

The person who has the closest guess to the exact date, hour and minute the car sinks will win $1,000. Each guess costs $5.

“Being a service club, we need to raise money because we give away, we provide scholarships to graduating seniors, we build structures in the community that are not buildings but they’re useful to residents – a viewing platform, a walking bridge over a creek, you know, things like that,” DeRidder said.