Wildfire in the Sky

Sleeping Bear Bay Northern Lights, photo by Kenneth Snyder

Here’s a feature via Leelanau.com

A Conflagration of Storms from his online book The 23rd Cycle, Dr. Sten Odenwald tells of the evening of March 13, 1989 when a massive wave of solar energy struck our atmosphere, creating one of the most impressive northern lights displays of the modern era.

Alaskan and Scandinavian observers were treated to a spectacular auroral display that night. Intense colors from the rare Great Aurora painted the skies around the world in vivid shapes that moved like legendary dragons. Ghostly celestial armies battled from sunset to midnight. Newspapers that reported this event considered the aurora, itself, to be the most newsworthy aspect of the storm. Seen as far south as Florida and Cuba, the vast majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere had never seen such a spectacle. Some even worried that a nuclear first-strike might be in progress.

Luke Pontin, a charter boat operator in the Florida Keys, described the colors in reddish hues as they reflected from the warm Caribbean waters. In Salt Lake City, Raymond Niesporek nearly lost his fish while starring transfixed at the northern display. He had no idea what it was until he returned home and heard about the rare aurora over Utah from the evening news. Although most of the Midwest was clouded over, in Austin Texas, Meteorologist Rich Knight at KXAN had to deal with hundreds of callers asking about what they were seeing. The first thing on many people’s mind was the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS29) which had been launched on March 13 at 9:57 AM. Had it exploded? Was it coming apart and raining down over the Earth? Millions marveled at the beautiful celestial spectacle, and solar physicists delighted in the new data it brought to them, but many more were not so happy about it.

Silently, the storm had impacted the magnetic field of the Earth and caused a powerful jet stream of current to flow 1000 miles above the ground. Like a drunken serpent, its coils gyrated and swooped downwards in latitude, deep into North America. As midnight came and went, invisible electromagnetic forces were staging their own pitched battle in a vast arena bounded by the sky above and the rocky subterranean reaches of the Earth. A river of charged particles and electrons in the ionosphere flowed from west to east, inducing powerful electrical currents in the ground that surged into many natural nooks and crannies. There, beneath the surface, natural rock resistance murdered them quietly in the night. Nature has its own effective defenses for these currents, but human technology was not so fortunate on this particular night. The currents eventually found harbor in the electrical systems of Great Britain, the United States and Canada.

Read on for much more about how our electrical grid can be brought to its knees by the power behind the beauty of the northern lights and get much more in the 23rd Cycle.

Kenneth took this photo back in July of 2012. See more great pics in his Sleeping Bear Dunes album & also check out many more northern lights photos in the Leelanau.com group on Flickr!

Happy New Year 2019!!

Surfing the Great Lakes, photo by Paulh192

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
– Neil Gaiman
 
Live, try, learn, grow & push yourself in 2019. Happy New Year everyone and for the Fun Police, don’t try surfing in the winter if you don’t know how to surf in the summer. ;)
 
Paul took this shot a surfer contemplating some mountainous waves on Lake Michigan on the pier in Grand Haven, Michigan during an unusually violent November storm. What looks like the shoreline on the upper right is actually another huge wave!
 
See Paul’s photo on Flickr and get lots more on his Flickr page!

Candle Ice on Lake Michigan

Yesterday my photos and videos of an odd phenomenon on the Lake Michigan shore in Leelanau County got featured by Tanda Gimter on mLive who writes in part:

…some of the ice-crystal creations that suddenly appeared on a Leelanau County beach last weekend had photographers excited about their find – and a little baffled. The large, column-like crystals spread out on the ground like blooming flowers.

When you touched the hand-high columns, they broke apart easily.

“It was just kind of a weird day,” said Andrew McFarlane of Leland, who works in web development and marketing. He took pictures and a couple videos of the phenomenon while he was at Van’s Beach in Leland on Sunday. “I’ve never seen it before that I can remember.”

As regular readers know, I’m not one to let a Michigan mystery alone, and after some research I’m pretty confident that this is called “candle ice”. The American Meteorological Society defines it as: A form of rotten ice; disintegrating sea ice (or lake ice) consisting of ice prisms or cylinders oriented perpendicular to the original ice surface; these “ice fingers” may be equal in length to the thickness of the original ice before its disintegration.

Here’s a video of it!

Gimme More Summer

gimme more summer by Yolanda Gonzalez

For the next week, Michigan in Pictures will be on a vacation of sorts as I work on the Earthwork Harvest Gathering, a truly wonderful gathering featuring 120+ bands, panels, workshops, day passes or weekend camping. Head over to the Earthwork Harvest Gathering website for all the info and I’ll see you in a week.

I’ll leave you with this feeling I feel every time of year that Yolanda captured so well in this photo. Hope you get a little more summer! View the photo bigger and see more in Yolanda’s Beaver Island slideshow.

Maybe watch the Michigan in Pictures Facebook page for some quick hits!

 

Michigan Lighthouse Festival celebrating 150 Years at Big Sable Point

Summer Evening at Big Sable Point Lighthouse, photo by Craig Sterken Photography

This weekend is the 2nd Annual Michigan Lighthouse Festival featuring Big Sable Point Lighthouse’s 150th Anniversary! The festival features lighthouse tours throughout the weekend, a vendor show on Saturday and Sunday, Friday Night dinner with special guest speakers, topped off with Ric Mixter performing “The Storm” on Saturday night.

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light has some great information about the history of Big Sable Point Lighthouse including an explanation of the light’s unique appearance:

Construction began in early 1867 with the arrival of Lighthouse Board and Army Corps of Engineers workers, who immediately began the construction of a dock at which to unload the necessary supplies for the project. Next, a temporary cofferdam was constructed to keep waster from entering the foundation, which consisted of tightly fitted cut stone blocks beginning a depth of six feet below grade and extending three feet above.

On this sturdy foundation, the skilled masons began to raise the tower. Constructed of cream city brick, the walls were laid five feet thick at the foundation, tapering to a thickness of two feet thick immediately below the gallery. Within the tower, a circular inner wall, eight feet in diameter supported the cast iron spiral staircase. On its’ vertical climb, the stairway passed through three landing areas.

…In 1898, the District Inspector reported that the cream city brick used in constructing the tower was found to be flaking as a result of exposure to the elements, and voiced concern that if left as-is, the integrity of the tower would likely be compromised. This flaking grew so severe, that in 1899 a contract was awarded to the J. G. Wagner Company of Milwaukee to construct the necessary steel plates to encase the tower. The plates were satisfactorily test assembled at the Milwaukee Lighthouse Depot, loaded onto lighthouse tenders and then shipped to Big Sable. With the arrival of the plates, the process of riveting the plates together around the tower, and filling the void between the brick and the plates with cement began. The construction was completed in June 1900 at a total labor and materials cost of $4,925. In order to increase the visibility of the tower during daylight hours, the new cladding was painted white with a contrasting black band around its’ middle third.

View the photo bigger, see more in Craig’s Big Sable Lighthouse slideshow, and view & purchase photos at craigsterken.com.

More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!

The Pink Sands of Sand Point

Pink Sand at Sand Point, photo courtesy Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore shared this photo yesterday saying:

Is this sand pink? Yes it Is! The pink sand on the beach can be found on the northeast corner of Sand Point at the very end of Sand Point Rd. The pink sand is actually garnet that has eroded from one of the sandstone layers of the Pictured Rock cliffs. The garnet then washed up at Sand Point and makes a unique pink sand beach.

View it bigger on Facebook, and visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for much more information on Sand Point and other amazing places in one of Michigan’s most amazing parks.

PS: Better follow PicturedRocksNL on Facebook too if you want to know about things like being able to watch a sunset from a lighthouse.

The Colors of Agate Beach

The Colors of Agate Beach, photo by Neil Weaver

Neil took this photo on Agate Beach in Grand Marais on Lake Superior. It’s a popular spot for rockhounds. Superior Trails has an article on agate beaches around Lake Superior that says in part:

Veteran Agate Hunters will troll gravel pits, riversides, hiking trails, roadsides, as well as beaches looking for agates. We stick to beaches, not because the chances of finding an agate are better, but because there is something unique about being close to Big Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior), listening to the waves lapping the shoreline, feeling the crisp breeze coming of the lake, breathing the fresh air, and getting some exercise walking along the shoreline.

We’ve got a few favorite beaches, some where we have had good luck, but also we like some better than others for the scenery or the variety of rocks and stones that litter the shoreline. Little Girls Point near Ironwood, Michigan is one of our favorites. It has perhaps more rocks per foot than any other we’ve encountered around Lake Superior and it has a decent variety of rocks as well. Another plus is it has several lakeside RV campsites which if you are lucky enough to reserve one means the beach is right outside your back door. Jo has a soft spot for the beach at Muskallonge State Park because there she found her first four agates in two days of beach combing. Grand Marais Michigan is another favorite, offering an extensive beach with lots of variety of rocks and a reputation for some huge agate finds. The Woodland Park campground is adjacent to the beach. Grand Marais is also home to the Gitche Gumee Agate Museum, a must see stop for any agate fan. But next year, we may find an agate at a previously less favored beach and declare it as our new favorite, for there are so many beaches that we’ve only touched upon briefly.

View Neil’s photo bigger on Facebook and visit neilweaverphotography.com to view & purchase incredible photos from all over Michigan!