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!

The Christmas Tree Ships

an oldie but a goodie for #TBT!

elsie-schuenemann-christmas-tree-ship

Above is a portrait of Elsie Schuenemann at the wheel of the Christmas Ship, near the Clark Street Bridge on the Chicago River in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois. The boat carried Christmas trees to Chicago from Michigan. Her father, Captain H. Schuenemann, died when the Rouse Simmons, a ship carrying Christmas trees, sank in 1912.

The trees behind her likely came from the woods of Escanaba. Though the story of Barbara Schuenemann and her three daughters carrying on the tradition of the Christmas Tree Ships has perhaps been a little over-romanticized, there can be little doubt that the Schuenemann family and the many others who participated in the difficult trade of hauling Christmas trees south as the storms of winter closed in were heroes cut from a cloth that isn’t found too often today.

If you’d like to read more about all the Christmas tree ships (there were many more than just the famous Rouse Simmons) I recommend Christmas Tree Ships from Fred Neuschel. He has also written a book called Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships (available from UM Press). The National Archive also has The Christmas Tree Ship: Captain Herman E. Schuenemann and the Schooner Rouse Simmons that details the Schuenemann’s story.

You can also see Rich Evenhouse’s cool video of diving the Rouse Simmons.

Walking on the Moon: The Apollo Capsule in Grand Rapids

Now That Was Just Weird by Daniel E Johnson

July 20th is 49th anniversary of our first steps on the moon. The Mix 95.7 Grand Rapids tells the story of the Apollo capsule in front of the Grand Rapids Public Museum:

It turns out that the capsule is an actual Apollo Capsule, but it wasn’t a capsule that sat atop an Apollo Rocket. The capsule was made for training astronauts. But don’t let that news get you down, the capsule still has quite the history to it!

This type of capsule is known as a “Boilerplate” … built, along with dozens of other capsules, in the 1960s to test various systems on the Apollo Rockets. 

BP-1227 was lost at sea in early 1970 during a routine training drill to recover the Apollo boilerplate capsule by UK-based naval units. Later that same year, the capsule that was lost was miraculously recovered by a Russian “fishing vessel.” Many believe that the fishing vessel was actually a spy boat that was tracking the capsule as part of an intelligence operation.

The capsule was taken back to Russia and in late 1970 the Russians invited the Americans to recover their capsule. On September 8th, 1970 the US Navy Icebreaker, Southwind, made a stop in Murmansk to recover BP-1227. This was the first visit to a Soviet port by a US military vessel since World War II.

After the capsule was returned, the Smithsonian Institution spent the next several years restoring BP-1227 before it was eventually given on loan to the City of Grand Rapids in 1976. The boilerplate capsule was dedicated to the people of Grand Rapids on December 31, 1976. Students from local high schools filled BP-1227 with everyday items from their lives to form a time capsule. The time capsule was sealed on the last day of our nation’s Bicentennial year and it is to be opened on July 4th, 2076, as our nation celebrates its Tricentennial.

Read on for more. About the photo, Daniel wrote: We had a huge, odd cloud float over Grand Rapids today. Wednesday October 1st, 2008. HDR from one exposure shot in raw and split out three times , re-compiled in Photomatix.

See more in his HDR gallery.

Happy 131st Birthday to Michigan’s Best Porch!

Mackinac Bridge from the Grand Porch, photo by Marilyn Bogle

Happy 131st Birthday to The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island which opened on July 10, 1887. Here’s some historical highlights about Michigan’s most iconic hotel:

1887 Grand Hotel opens, billed as a summer retreat for vacationers who arrive by lake steamer from Chicago, Erie, Montreal, Detroit, and by rail from across the continent. Rates are $3 to $5 a night.

1890s Grand Hotel’s Front Porch – longest in the world—becomes the principal meeting place for all of Mackinac Island, as well as a promenade for the elderly and a “Flirtation Walk” for island romantics. Grand Hotel Manager James “The Comet” Hayes invites an agent of Edison Phonograph to conduct regular demonstrations of the new invention.

1895 Mark Twain lectures in the Grand Hotel Casino. Admission: $1.

1897 The West Wing is added to the hotel.

Turn of the century – The automobile finds its way onto the island. Grand Hotel supports an island-wide ban. A law is passed, but not strictly enforced until the 1930s.

1919 Hotel rates: $6 a day per person.

1935 A radio salon where patrons can listen to Jack Benny and other popular programs is added.

1947 This Time For Keeps starring Jimmy Durante and Esther Williams is filmed on the island and at Grand Hotel.

1960 Grand Hotel owner W. Stewart Woodfill appoints R.D. (Dan) Musser president of Grand Hotel.

1976 Musser and wife Amelia begin the redesign of the hotel’s interior and exterior with the help of architect Richard Bos and decorator Carleton Varney.

1979 The Mussers purchase Grand Hotel.

1980 Somewhere In Time, filmed at Grand Hotel and starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer, is released.

1989 The U.S. Department of Interior designates Grand Hotel a National Historic Landmark.

View Marilyn’s photo background bigilicious and see more in her Mackinac album.

More Grand Hotel and more Mackinac Island on Michigan in Pictures!

House Drop: L Frank Baum, Oz & Michigan

The house began to pitch… by Cherie

“Oh rubbish, you have no power here. Be gone before someone drops a house on you.”
– Glinda the Good

On May 15, 1856, L Frank Baum was born. 44 years and 2 days later, he published the first of my personal favorite series of books and one of the most beloved children’s books of all time, The Wizard of Oz. While I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a gateway to the Land of Oz hidden somewhere in Michigan, I have no doubt that the magic & wonder of the Oz owes a lot to the time that the Goose Man of Macatawa spent in Michigan!

I’m not sure if there’s a wicked witch under this house, but you can check it out background big and see more in Cherie’s Rural Exploration album.

 

March 3, 1875: Mackinac National Park

The National Parks Traveler has a great article by Bob Janiskee titled
Pruning the Parks: Mackinac National Park (1875-1895)
that says (in part):

Though few people seem to know or care, Michigan’s long-ago abolished Mackinac National Park was America’s second national park. Yellowstone got there first, but not by much.

On March 1, 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law establishing that Yellowstone would forever be “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Yellowstone thus became the first true national park in America and the world. What few people seem to know is that Congress created a second national park just three years later. Michigan’s Mackinac National Park, which existed from 1875 to 1895, is the “forgotten” national park.

…Despite a location well removed from the main population centers of the Midwest, Mackinac Island was well served by Great Lakes steamers and became a significant summer resort after the Civil War. The island developed a tourism-based economy and a reputation for being a “healthy” place (though not a cheap one) in which to relax and reenergize in scenic surroundings. By the late 1800s the island had acquired several large hotels and a number of large Victorian homes (called “cottages”) built by wealthy summer residents. The resident population remained small due to the harsh winter climate of the place. There were still only about three dozen residences on the island in 1895.

Island-born U.S. Senator Thomas W. Ferry (1827-1896), whose parents ran the island’s mission school, was concerned that Mackinac Island would end up in private hands and be subjected to development that would ruin its scenic-historic character and slow paced lifestyle. Not long after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, Ferry began gathering political support for making a large part of Mackinac Island a national park as well.

It was tough going for several years, not least because Congress was loathe to spend money on parks and the island’s scenic and geologic attractions were not jaw-dropping wonders on a par with those of Yellowstone. Ferry finally prevailed, however, and Congress established Mackinac National Park with legislation that President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law on April 15, 1875. The enabling legislation was virtually identical to that used to create Yellowstone National Park in 1872.

This was a deal done on the cheap. Most of Mackinac Island was already federal property, and the park itself was small. Most importantly, Congress gave the park to the War Department to administer. That meant that soldiers from the Fort Mackinac garrison could be used for the requisite operation and policing of the park.

The arrangement actually worked quite well. The Fort Mackinac command gave serious attention to its park-related responsibilities, and although park superintendents irritated island business interests by nixing some inappropriate development proposals, islanders generally appreciated that their economic interests were best served by protecting the park’s scenery, geologic features, and historic landscape.

Mackinac National Park lasted just 20 years. In the 1890s the Army proposed to abandon Fort Mackinac, an action that would leave the park without a custodian. Alarmed at the prospect, Michigan governor John T. Rich petitioned Congress to turn the park over to the state of Michigan. This was done in 1895. Mackinac Island State Park, reportedly the first state-operated park in this country to be officially titled a “state park,” remains a Michigan state park to this day.

Read more at the National Parks Traveler and learn about this 1936 replica of Fort Holmes from Mackinac State Historic Parks.

Farewell, Jud Heathcote

Jud Heathcote, photo courtesy MSU Basketball

“Michigan State has lost one of its icons today. And yet nothing can erase his impact on the program, the players he coached and the coaches he mentored. Spartan basketball is what it is today because of Jud Heathcote.”
~MSU Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Legendary Michigan State University basketball coach Jud Heathcote has passed away at the age of 90:

George M. (Jud) Heathcote coached the Michigan State men’s basketball team from 1976-95, guiding the Spartans to 340 victories, three Big Ten titles, nine NCAA Tournament berths and one national title during his 19 seasons in East Lansing.

Heathcote is the second-winningest coach in MSU history with a record of 340-220 (.607), including a 14-8 (.636) mark in the NCAA Tournament. His overall record was 420-273 (.606) over 24 seasons, including five years at Montana.

In his third season in East Lansing, Heathcote led Michigan State to its first NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1979 and won back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1978 and 1979. During those two seasons, Heathcote had the opportunity to coach one of the game’s greatest players, All-American Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who propelled the Spartans to a 51-10 record in his two seasons at MSU.

A two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (1978 and 1986), Heathcote coached seven All-Americans (Johnson, Gregory Kelser, Jay Vincent, Sam Vincent, Scott Skiles, Steve Smith and Shawn Respert) and 22 NBA players. Five of his players won the Big Ten scoring title a total of six times. During Jud’s tenure, MSU had at least one player among the first-team All-Big Ten selections in 12 of his 19 years.

Prior to his retirement, Heathcote ensured that the future of Spartan basketball would be in good hands. In 1990, he promoted assistant Tom Izzo to associate head coach, and fought for Izzo to be named his successor.

Read on for more and please share articles about him that you enjoyed in the comments!

Here’s a brief video on Heathcote from CBS Sports…