November 8, 2010
“No lake master can recall in all his experience a storm of such unprecedented violence with such rapid changes in the direction of the wind and its gusts of such fearful speed! Storms ordinarily of that velocity do not last over four or five hours, but this storm raged for sixteen hours continuously at an average velocity of sixty miles per hour, with frequent spurts of seventy and over.
Obviously, with a wind of such long duration, the seas that were made were such that the lakes are not ordinarily acquainted with. The testimony of masters is that the waves were at least 35 feet high and followed each other in quick succession, three waves ordinarily coming one right after the other.
~Report from the Lake Carriers Association in the wake of the Great Lakes “White Hurricane”
97 years ago the Great Lakes region reeled under the deadliest storm in its history. Known as the “Big Blow” and the “Freshwater Fury”, was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin in the Midwestern United States and the Canadian province of Ontario from November 7 through November 10, 1913. The report above comes from an excellent article on the weather science behind the 1913 storm from NOAA Weather Historian William R. Deedler. You can also read about the storm on Wikipedia and check out Freshwater Fury on Absolute Michigan that includes some videos about the storm and a slideshow of the damage it wrought.
November 7, 2009
Charles S Price upside down, 1913, Wikipedia
Dear wife and Children. We were left up here in Lake Michigan by McKinnon, captain James H. Martin tug, at anchor. He went away and never said goodbye or anything to us. Lost one man yesterday. We have been out in storm forty hours. Goodbye dear ones, I might see you in Heaven. Pray for me. / Chris K. / P.S. I felt so bad I had another man write for me. Goodbye forever.
~A message found in a bottle 11 days after Plymouth disappeared, dictated by Chris Keenan, federal marshal in charge of the barge
Wikipedia says that the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, also known as the “Freshwater Fury” or the “White Hurricane”, was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that ravaged the Great Lakes November 7-10, 1913. With the sinking of 19 ships, the stranding of another 19 and a death toll of at least 250, it remains the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster in Great Lakes history.
Major shipwrecks occurred on all but Lake Ontario, with most happening on southern and western Lake Huron. Lake masters recounted that waves reached at least 35 feet (11 m) in height. Being shorter in length than waves ordinarily formed by gales, they occurred in rapid succession, with three waves frequently striking in succession. Masters also stated that the wind often blew in directions opposite to the waves below. This was the result of the storm’s cyclonic motion, a phenomenon rarely seen on the Great Lakes.
In the late afternoon of November 10, an unknown vessel was spotted floating upside-down in about 60 feet (18 m) of water on the eastern coast of Michigan, within sight of Huronia Beach and the mouth of the St. Clair River. Determining the identity of this “mystery ship” became of regional interest, resulting in daily front-page newspaper articles. The ship eventually sank, and it was not until early Saturday morning, November 15, that it was finally identified as the Charles S. Price. The front page of that day’s Port Huron Times-Herald extra edition read, “BOAT IS PRICE — DIVER IS BAKER — SECRET KNOWN”. Milton Smith, the assistant engineer who decided at the last moment not to join his crew on premonition of disaster, aided in identifying any bodies that were found.
You can get a map to the wreck of the Charles S Price, and here’s a list of shipwrecks of the 1913 storm and an account of the weather. You can see more photos from Wikipedia and also in Lakeland Boating’s great slideshow of some of the on and offshore damage from the Freshwater Fury.
March 7, 2014
You can today’s photo under “dedication” as photographer Jason Lome hiked 18 miles hauling his camping gear in temperatures ranging from 0 to -20F to get this shot! You can purchase right here.
After a number of groundings in the early 1820’s, mariners began petitioning the Federal Government to construct an aid to navigation on Waugoshance Shoal. While the construction of underwater cribs had been attempted with success on the East Coast, the relatively short shipping seasons and thick winter ice of northern Lake Michigan appeared to make such an undertaking a daunting challenge.
As an interim measure, the wooden vessel LOIS MCLANE, which had been converted into a lightship, was placed on Waugoshance Shoal in 1832, thus taking her place in history as the first lighthouse to serve on all the Great Lakes.
In 1850, the decision was made to construct a more permanent light on the shoal, and work began with the construction of a timber crib on St. Helena Island. The crib was then towed to Waugoshance and sunk in place through the addition of large rocks.
…Exposed as it was to the full fury of Lake Michigan and to the great breaking fields of ice every spring, the crib began to deteriorate. Reacting to this deterioration in 1865, the Lighthouse Board appropriated the funds required to make the repairs necessary to ensure the station’s continued structural integrity, and quickly completed the work.
While the repairs of 1865 were considerable in their scope, they were no match for the relentless fury of the lake, and by the late 1880’s the crib and the soft brick of the tower had once again deteriorated to the point where major repairs were needed.
There’s much more to found at Seeing the Light including the construction of this edition of the Waugashance Lighthouse and how it came to be a ruin.
November 7, 2013
100 years ago today the most devastating storm in Great Lakes history began. It raged across the Great Lakes from November 7-10, 1913. As NOAA’s commemorative website explains:
In November of 1913 the Great Lakes were struck by a massive storm system combining whiteout blizzard conditions and hurricane force winds. The storm lasted for four days, during which the region endured 90 mile per hour winds and waves reaching 35 feet in height. With only basic technology available, shipping communication and weather prediction systems were not prepared for a storm of such devastating force. When the skies finally cleared, the Great Lakes had seen a dozen major shipwrecks, an estimated 250 lives lost, and more than $5 million in damages (the equivalent of more than $117 million today).
Nicknamed the “White Hurricane” and the ‘Freshwater Fury” the 1913 storm remains the most devastating natural disaster to ever strike the Great Lakes. One hundred years later, NOAA commemorates the Storm of 1913 not only for the pivotal role it plays in the history of the Great Lakes but also for its enduring influence. Modern systems of shipping communication, weather prediction, and storm preparedness have all been fundamentally shaped by the events of November 1913.
November 8, 2012
Glen Willis of the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society has an excellent article on The Great Storm of 1913 that explains that most historians agree that the most significant and most dreadful storm on Lake Huron took place over the weekend of November 8-10, 1913. Known by all mariners simply as “The Storm”, it was first detected on the western end of Lake Superior on Thursday, November 6th then progressed rapidly south and east, dropping temperatures and spawning marine warnings.
At Pointe aux Barques as the temperature dropped, it began to rain. As the wind picked up the rain turned to sleet. The sleet began to ice up everything it touched. The waves offshore quickly reached 10 to 12 feet, and then more. Then the snow came, thick and wind driven. Shipmasters out on the lake were finding sailing conditions that were unlike any they had seen before. The sleet that had coated their vessels turned the pilothouse windows opaque. It sealed and froze the doorways. To step outside a cabin meant that the skin would be painfully pelted by frozen bits of sleet & snow…
By midday Sunday at Pointe aux Barques, the snow was so thick and so heavily driven by the wind that vessels out on the lake could not see the rays of the light. At nearby Harbor Beach waves had already destroyed some lakefront buildings and had run the 552-foot D.O. Mills ashore. At mid-lake the wheelsman on the 500 foot Howard M. Hannah, Jr. found that the forward motion of the ship had ceased and that the bow had fallen off into the trough of the waves. Without enough power to drive it the ship was at the mercy of the elements. Waves were higher than the ship is tall and as they crashed down upon the ship the windows and the cabins were stove in. The ship was not under command and as it drifted into Saginaw Bay the master could see the flash of the Port Austin Reef Light. He then knew that his ship would not be saved.
Pointe aux Barques is the oldest continuously operating Light on the Great Lakes, and the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society preserves the light and operates a museum. Visit them for more!
More shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.
May 14, 2012
The Middle Island Light Keepers Association (MILKA) and the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival “Museum” invite you to be a part of history on Monday, May 28, 2012. On that day, the General Service Administration will deliver a quitclaim deed and the U.S. Coast Guard will deliver the key and ownership and responsibility for upkeep, maintenance and preservation to MILKA. To commemorate this historic event, ferry service will be available to Middle Island (weather permitting), where the tower will have its first official opening to the general public. There will be hot dogs, refreshments, a “Joy Ride” Island Tour, tours of Middle Island Light Station and much more!
The Middle Island Lighthouse page at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins:
Situated approximately 6.5 miles north of Potter Point, Middle Island received its name as a result of its location midway between the North Point of Thunder Bay and Presque Isle. The island had long represented a “triple-edged sword” to mariners. Marking a turning point in the course for vessels making up and down the coast, the island’s lee side also represented an excellent harbor of refuge in which to escape Huron’s fury. However surrounded with shoals with depths of less than six feet on all but its northeast side, the refuge could be hard to find in dark of night or in the thickest weather. In fact, the area was considered dangerous enough that the Life Saving Service built a station on the island in 1881 to help service ships in distress in the area.
As one of the final links in a growing chain of coast lights being constructed along Huron’s western shore, the Lighthouse Board finally recommended that an appropriation of $25,000 be made for a light and fog signal on the Middle Island’s eastern shore in its annual report of 1896. With no appropriation forthcoming, the Board reiterated its request in each of its annual reports for the following six years, until Congress finally responded favorably with the requested appropriation on March 3, 1902.
Read on for more including photos of the station and also see a map with the location of Middle Island Lighthouse. Following the closure of the station, the tower and outbuildings were seriously vandalized. In 1992, a group of concerned citizens in the Alpena area formed the Middle Island Lighthouse Keepers Association in 1992. They converted the fog signal building into the Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge, which opened for business in 2003. Visit that site for photos of the lodge and reconstruction efforts.
Terry Pepper is the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Association and maintains the fantastic Seeing the Light website, a guide to the lighthouses of the western Great Lakes. While he’s appeared as a resource for many of the lighthouse features on Michigan in Pictures, this is the first using his photos!
November 4, 2011
“NOVEMBER, n. The eleventh twelfth of a weariness.”
~ Ambrose Bierce
From simple weariness of the changing weather to the terrible fury of November storms, the month of November can take a heavy toll on Michiganders.
Fortunately, there’s great events all across the state to help us get through. With indoor enjoyment at events like Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids (Nov 3-13), the East Lansing Film Festival and the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music in Kalamazoo (Nov 10-12) to more hardy pursuits like Opening Day & Deer Season and tomorrow’s Iceman Cometh bike race in Traverse City, our November Michigan Event Calendar has you covered!
We even have FOUR tickets to give away to the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival (Nov 17-19) – click to check it out and chase away Mr. Bierce’s November weariness!
Cory took this shot in October on Presque Isle in Marquette, but it’s certainly indicative of what you’ll see on Lake Superior in November! Check it out bigger and in Cory’s The Yoop – U.P. slideshow.
November 17, 2010
A a lot of the sound and fury that has surrounded the Volt’s launch has tended to obscure a simple truth: This automobile is a game-changer.
~Motor Trend Magazine
Motor Trend magazine has named the Chevrolet Volt its 2011 Car of the Year. The criteria for Car of the Year are design advancement, engineering excellence, intended function, efficiency, safety and value. After reading passages like the one below, you get the sense that when the Motor Trend Editor in Chief Angus MacKenzie says that the Chevy Volt is one of the most groundbreaking vehicles they’ve tested in 60 years, he means it:
The Volt’s unique powertrain not only defies established labels; it also defies established methods of determining fuel economy. After all, this is a vehicle that will complete the standard EPA fuel economy test in full EV mode, making conventional mileage calculations impossible.
Read more at Motor Trend, visit the official Chevrolet Volt web site and see a video, more about the award and GM’s IPO this week on Absolute Michigan.
The photo above is the first pre-production Chevrolet Volt on the assembly line at the Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant. It was posted by IBM. Check it out bigger and read about how IBM software played a role in the development of the vehicle.
Here’s the Chevy Volt slideshow on Flickr.
June 15, 2009
The Grand Island East Channel Light entry at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light begins:
Grand Island stands at the entrance to Munising Bay, with its south shore long serving as a natural harbor of refuge to vessels seeking shelter from the fury of Superior’s late season storms. So critical was the area considered by mariners that one of the big lakes’ first lighthouses was built on the north tip of Grand Island in 1856, to both warn coasting captains of the northern point of the island and to indicate the safe harbor located to the south. While the lighthouse served both purposes well, it did little to provide assistance to captains making their way through the harbor passages one the east and west sides of the island, through which entry was difficult under conditions of good visibility, and next to impossible under the cover of darkness.
To this end on February 27, 1860, Senator Chandler presented a petition signed by masters, pilots and owners of vessels sailing through the area “praying the erection of two light-houses upon the entrance to Grand Island bay and harbor.”
In addition to being one of the first lights on Lake Superior, it was also one of the first to be decommissioned. Click through to Terry’s site to read on and to see more pictures. He notes that you pass this light if you take the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise. You can also see a Map to Grand Island light at Lighthouse Friends.
Be sure to check this out bigger and also see Wendy’s slideshow for a few more lighthouse photos.