Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota – Dakota

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View The Patten’s visit Mt. Rushmore in a larger map

Is there in the English language a word that refers to as many diverse things as the word ‘Dakota’? Here are just a few of its uses:

    It is a popular first name used by both boys and girls.It is a native American tribe, part of the Sioux nation, who use a language which is also called Dakota.It is a famous light truck, the Dodge Dakota.

There have been unlucky ships called the SS Dakota. One sank off the Welsh coast in 1877 and another off the Japanese coast in 1907.

A successful 1945 film, starring John Wayne, was called Dakota.

Dakota is the name of such contrasting entities as an English rock band and a New York City apartment block.

It is a fossil which it is claimed is 67 million years old.

It was a brand of cigarette that tried and failed to take over Marlboro’s share of the market and was subsequently withdrawn.

It was a military transport plane, also called the C47, which was much in use during the latter part of World War Two.

When the United States doubled in size in 1803, because President Thomas Jefferson bought from France a great chunk of land in a deal known as the Louisiana purchase, the northern part of that land was known as Dakota.

Yet the most frequent use of the word today is in relation to two American states, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Pat, along with our daughter, Anna, and I made our first visit to the Dakotas in 2011, when we visited Mount Rushmore. There is an excellent visitor center combined with walkways and a platform which allowed us a perfect view of these carvings.

 

 

Mt. Rushmore is largely composed of granite and is located near the town of Keystone in the black hills of South Dakota. It is the tallest mountain in the region and is named after Charles E. Rushmore, a successful New York lawyer.

Between 1927 and 1941, events took place which led to the mountain becoming the top tourist attraction in South Dakota, visited by millions every year. What occurred between those years was the carving into the face of the mountain of 60 foot tall sculptures of the faces of four US presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Mt. Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore

The sculptures face to the south east, which gives them maximum exposure to the sun. It was planned at first that the images of the four presidents would be carved from head to waist, but shortage of funds has left us with their heads only.

A great ambition of film producer Alfred Hitchcock, was to make a film the climax of which would be a chase across the presidential faces on Mount Rushmore. He did so and his 1959 release, called North by North West starring Cary Grant, was a great success. However the authorities would not allow him to shoot on Mount Rushmore. He had to build a replica of the presidential faces in Hollywood and film it there.

View a trailer of the movie that shows a clip of the chase scene across Hitchock’s Hollywood Mt. Rushmore in the video below.

 

 

We never reached the state of North Dakota, which is a pity because it is here that the future of the United States of America will be written. A recent report claims that, thanks in large part to North Dakota, there is three times as much oil in the United States as in Saudi Arabia. As oil extraction technology improves this figure is constantly being revised upwards. The implications of this are enormous. It could mean gasoline at two dollars a gallon or less forever. It could means that the vast US national debt could be paid off, instead of being left as a burden around the necks of generations yet to come.

The oil boom in North Dakota is taking place in the north western part of the state. In a five county area, the number of oil wells there has recently increased from 800 to 6000. The boom in natural gas has been just as spectacular. North Dakota is now the fourth largest oil producing state in the country, recently exceeding production in Louisiana. It is expected to overtake third place California later this year. Population in the state, after falling for years, is now increasing.

Bakken Formation Map
Bakken Formation Map

These oil fields are grouped around an area of rock known as the Bakken formation. The State of North Dakota reported in 2007 estimated that there are 2.1 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken. By the end of 2010, production was exceeding capacity to ship oil out of the Bakken. Other estimates claim that the figure of 2.1 billion is far too low and that 18 billion to 24 billion barrels is far more realistic.

Much of this oil production is taking place on private land, which makes it difficult for the Federal Government and the environmentalists to obstruct progress. US oil production is very much dependent on the outcome of the November 2012 elections, which have been rightly called the most important of our lifetime. The future of North Dakota is at stake and time will tell.