April Fools! Unfortunately NMU will not be rebuilding the dorm saunas, hopefully the administration considers bringing back this feature someday. Back in the 70’s NMU had saunas within a few of the dorms. Nowadays there are saunas located within the men and women locker-rooms at the PEIF. Saunas have a unique following in the Upper Peninsula.
When I first came to the NMU in 2012 I was unaware of the massive Finnish culture within the Upper Peninsula. During 1867-1888 Finns started migrating to the Upper Peninsula. In the 1900’s there were roughly 18,000 Finns living within the copper country. Today Michigan is home to 68,203 Finnish Americans, this is the largest population within the United States.
During my past four years at Northern I have thoroughly enjoyed using the sauna at the Physical Instructional Educational Facility (PEIF). Little did I know that Marquette, Michigan has attempted setting the record for the “world’s largest sauna.” In 1996 at FinnFest a blue and white tent was setup at the north end of Memorial Field. Then tent was heated to 121 degrees by two 400,000 British thermal unit diesel-powered heaters. Over 650 people packed into the tent and the records were sent to the Guinness Book of World Records. Although the previous record consisted of 300 participants, Guinness officials did not recognize the FinnFest attempt because the event took place in a tent, not a real sauna.
Unfortunately the Guinness officials failed to recognize what the sauna means to the Finns. For the Finns the purpose of the sauna was not to improve their complexion, lose weight or to fall asleep. To the Finn it was an essential and complementary addition to the farm house without indoor plumbing. The primary function of the sauna was to provide a place to bathe.
Most saunas are separate from the house. People will build their sauna in the basement, attic or within the garage. The heat within the sauna ranges between 120 and 140 degrees, but with the dry air the sauna can become 170 degrees and sometimes upwards of 220 degrees. When water is thrown on the stones the temperature does not rise to much, it only causes the individual to sweat more due to the increase in humidity. At the end of the day the sauna is a place where gossip and news can be shared amongst friends.