August 7, 2012
The Great Lakes Echo’s Jennifer Kalish has a feature on an animated wind map that’s driven by real-time data.
Two digital artists recently released an animated map illustrating the speed and direction of surface winds across the U.S.
Its ever changing patterns are driven by wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Click here to see the Wind Map.
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light says that the iron pier light is 55 feet tall, and Gary’s photo from Sunday at the breakwall in Grand Marais shows what wind can do to the waves of Lake Superior! See this photo as big as the big lake or jump into his slideshow for a couple more shots of the wave action!
Read more about the Grand Marais Pier Light on Michigan in Pictures.
July 20, 2012
Bloomberg is reporting that the Midwest drought is now affecting nearly 80% of the corn crop, over half of the US and is a factor in heat waves that have set or tied a whopping 6,639 daily high temperature records since June 1. The drought is already affecting southern and west Michigan and parts of the UP and appears likely to expand into northern Michigan as well.
This Detroit News article reports that the percentage of the state affected by severe drought has jumped to 21% from just 2% a week ago. The State Drought Monitor shows the level of drought severity in Michigan, and you can see more with the Midwest region map and the Michigan Interactive Drought Conditions map. This report on Yahoo lists some of the highlights (lowlights?) of Michigan’s 2012 drought:
- Rainfall shortages since May 1 are up to six inches in some areas. The average rainfall at this time of year is eight to nine inches.
- Last week, the Michigan State University Extension (of the Department of Geology) reported that across Michigan, particularly in the southwestern part of the state, there was evidence of plant water stress.
- MSU Extension says that the extreme heat from the first week of July exacerbated crop concerns. Temperatures rose to high 90s and topped 100 degrees in some areas.
- The Michigan DEQ has issued several ozone alerts already this year. Michigan cities of Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ludington and Benton Harbor have been under air quality alert for 14-15 days since late May. Grand Rapids, Mich., has been under ozone alert for 17 days.
- MSU Extension says the intense drought across Michigan’s southern, central and eastern Corn Belt region has similar conditions to the great drought of 1988.
- …and the bad news: Continued dryness in Michigan is predicted for the rest of July, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.
More about Holland’s Big Red Lighthouse on Michigan in Pictures.
July 5, 2012
Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light has all the history on Big Sable Point Light Station. One interesting fact is that it holds the distinction of being the last Great Lakes light to become electrified in 1949.
Terry notes that electrification was always a double-edged-sword, because it paved the way for automation in 1968 which in turned paved the way for vandalism and deterioration. In 1977 waves came perilously close to undermining the tower before the seawall could be replaced, but the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association has helped restore this light to its former glory.
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!
April 28, 2012
It’s hard to let the Northern Lights go when they come for a visit as they did earlier this week, so here’s one more shot! You can read all about Point Iroquois Light from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light.
The Iroquois tribe made their home far away in New York. Point Iroquois is located at the east end of Lake Superior, where the lake narrows into the St. Mary’s River. If you’re wondering like I was how this point came to bear their name, the brochure for Point Iroquois has the answer:
The area around Sault Ste. Marie (“The Soo”), including Whitefish Bay, has been called the “Heartland” of the Chippewa Indians. This tribe is also called Ojibwa, and sometimes refer to themselves as “Anishinabeg,” which is their word for “original people.” The Iroquois lived about 400 miles away, mostly in what is now western New York. In the 1600’s these nations were at war, at least in part because of European influence and fur trade competition. The Iroquois often sent expeditions far from their homeland and attempted to control the trade routes leading east from the Great Lakes.
Accounts of an important battle at Point Iroquois in 1662 have been passed down for over 300 years. They tell how an Iroquois war party camped near the point where the lighthouse now stands, and how the Chippewa secretly watched their movements and mounted a surprise attack near dawn. The Iroquois were defeated decisively, and apparently never again ventured this far west.
April 9, 2012
Our tour of the lighthouses of the Keweenaw Peninsula with Aaron Jors continues with the light at Eagle Harbor.
The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light tells of the first light built in 1850 at the western point of Eagle Harbor built in 1850 and the rubble stone keeper’s dwelling with a square white-painted wooden tower integrated into one end of the roof. As with many lights built during the penny-pinching Pleasonton administration, the light was judged to be “laid together in the rudest manner” and targeted for replacement.
Rather than creating a unique set of plans for the new station, Eleventh District Engineer Brevet Brigadier General Orlando M. Poe resurrected a plan which had been previously used on Chambers Island in 1867 and at Eagle Bluff in 1868. After blasting out a hole for the cellar, the masons crafted a two-story dwelling red brick dwelling, 29-foot by 25-foot in plan, with an integrated 44-foot tall tower oriented diagonally into its northeastern corner. The exterior of the first and second stories of the tower were approximately ten feet square with buttressed corners, while the tower’s upper portion consisted of a ten-foot octagon. The tower was double-walled, with a circular inner wall approximately four inches thick and eight feet in diameter. This cylindrical inner wall supported a cast iron spiral staircase which wound from the oil storage room in the cellar to a hatch in the lantern floor. Since these spiral stairs also served as the only means of moving between floors in the dwelling, steel doors provided access to landings on both the first and second floors to prevent the spread of any fire in either the dwelling or tower.
Many (many) more Michigan Lighthouses from Michigan in Pictures.
March 21, 2012
The South Fox Lighthouse Association maintains this light, has lots of great history and photos and is a worthy target for your donations.
Recently, I made the acquaintance of Terry Pepper. Terry’s Seeing the Light is hands-down the best Great Lakes Lighthouse website out there and I’ve used him as a resource for years in dozens of lighthouse features on Michigan in Pictures. Terry told me I could lean on him (even more) for photos and information. It seems a shame to waste that gift, so here goes. On his South Fox Island Lighthouse page he begins:
South Fox Island is located approximately seventeen miles off Cat’s Head Point, at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. The story of this Island light began with Congress’s appropriation of $18,000 for the construction of a lighthouse there on March 2, 1867.
Work on the light station began immediately, with the construction of the Cream City brick tower. With walls thirteen inches in thickness, the square tower topped-out at forty-five feet in height, and contained a forty-eight step cast iron spiral staircase leading to the lantern room.
The lantern was outfitted with a flashing red Fourth Order Fresnel lens, and the station’s first keeper Henry J. Roe climbed the tower steps to exhibit the light for the first time on November 1, 1867.
Read on for much more including Keeper Warner’s battle with drifting sands and snow that piled so high as to interfere with access to the station’s buildings and more about that Cream City brick from Milwaukee.
March 16, 2012
The Ontonagon Lighthouse is part of the Ontonagon Museum. Their page on the lighthouse explains that:
America’s first mineral rush began in earnest with the opening of the Copper District in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the prospectors and mining developers following the Treaty of 1842 with the Ojibwe nation. Suddenly there was a great need for navigational aids. Among the first five lighthouses established on Lake Superior was the one at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, the largest river that flows into Lake Superior from the south shore. In 1851, a wooden lighthouse was constructed on the west side of the river’s mouth to guide ships to the port from which copper was being shipped from the mines upriver. In 1857, the Winslow Lewis light was replaced with a 5th order Fresnel lens, the latest thing in lighting technology.
At that time, there was a sand bar across the river’s mouth, so only smaller craft could enter the bowl-shaped harbor (the name Ontonagon is a corrupted Ojibwe word that infers a bowl or bowl shape). With the opening of the first Soo Lock in 1855, shipping volume increased dramatically. Permanent breakwaters were constructed at Ontonagon, the sandbar was dredged out, and Ontonagon became the busiest port on Lake Superior.
You can get lots more information and photos about the Ontonagon Lighthouse and the copper boom in the region from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light.
Jim adds that the light was deactivated in 1963 after an automatic foghorn was installed on the west pier and a battery light was located at the end of the east pier at the entrance into the Ontonagon harbor and marina. See his photo bigger and see more in his Lake Superior Lighthouses slideshow.
February 27, 2012
The page on the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light says that about 75 miles north of Fort Gratiot light and two miles from shore in Lake Huron, there’s a shallow reef with only two feet of water above it. It was right where northbound vessels made their swing into Saginaw Bay, and Michigan State Representative Isaac Crary entered a motion in Congress in 1838 to establish a lighthouse on the shore to warn mariners and mark the turning point:
Congress responded with an appropriation of $5,000 for the Light’s construction on July 7, 1838.
While conducting his annual inspection of lighthouses on the lakes and selecting sites for proposed new stations a month later, Lieutenant James T Homans arrived in the area to select the site for the new station. In his report to the Fifth Auditor of the Treasury for the year, Homans reported that he selected “the most westerly of the two points, known as Point-aux-Barques, near the entrance to Saganaw Bay (sic), for the light there, because it is sooner seen by vessels approaching from the northward and westward, by which it will be most used; also, as being near a shoal, dangerous to the navigation of its vicinity.” Homans went on to report that “There is stone in considerable quantity near this location, which can be used in constructing the buildings. The land, I presume, belongs to the Government, or can be had for a moderate price, there being no settlements within several miles, and the soil very barren.”
Government apparently moved no faster then than now, and it wasn’t until 1847 that the structure was completed. There’s much more about the lighthouse and the Port Hope Lifesaving Station including photos if you read on at Seeing the Light.
February 15, 2012
Today’s photo shows a fogbow. According to the Fogbow entry from Atmospheric Optics:
Fogbows form in the same way as rainbows. A small fraction of the light entering droplets is internally reflected once and emerges to form a large circle opposite the sun.
But… …beyond that there are major differences. Rainbows are formed by raindrops which are so large that rays passing through them follow well defined ‘geometrical optics’ paths. Fogbows are formed by much smaller cloud and fog droplets which diffract light extensively.
…Fogbows are almost white with faint reds on the outside and blues inside. The colours are so washed out because the bow in each colour is very broad and the colours overlap.
Steven shot this at the Holland Harbor Lighthouse aka Big Red and writes that he’s still amazed he was able to stumble upon one of these. Check his photo out big as the sky and in his Holland slideshow.