49 Voices: Brian Weed of Juneau

This week we’re hearing from Brian Weed in Juneau. Weed is a corrections officer by day and a mine explorer in his free time.

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(Screenshot of Brian Weed from Indie Alaska video by Kaysie Ellingson)
(Screenshot of Brian Weed from Indie Alaska video by Kaysie Ellingson)

WEED: My father used to work on Douglas Island for Department of Transportation. And when I was about 12 years old, he would make me go to work for him in the summer time. Little did he know, the second largest mine in the world, the Treadwell Mine, was located on Douglas Island about a half-mile away from where he worked.

I think I had a lighter and maybe a 25-lumen flashlight. And I remember just creeping in very slowly ’cause I had heard all these stories about pits and mines; you see all these movies where people fall. And so I moved very slow all the way to the back of the mine tunnel which was just a dumb idea, but when you’re 12, you don’t know any better.

I wanted to write a book. I wanted to share with people the history of Juneau: what’s still here, what’s off the trails. Juneau is here because of mining. Juneau’s not here because of fishing. It’s not here because of timber. Juneau was definitely here because of gold mining.

Here in Juneau, there’s really no recovery. If something super bad were to happen in a mine tunnel, I’m probably the one who’s gonna help you get out.

I want people to see what these miners went through, what their lives were like, what tools they left behind. Juneau was definitely here because of the thought and dreams of these small miners trying to strike it rich. Unfortunately, half the time, it was con artists supposedly finding a little bit of gold and then selling the idea and the small mine to East Coast investors who also wanted to get rich.

It’s almost like modern archaeology. You get to see the past even though it’s only about 100 years ago. It’s really neat to be in a place where you can say maybe a dozen people have ever been there.