Poe Reef under construction

Poe Reef Lighthouse under construction, courtesy National Archives & Lighthouse Friends

Estately has compiled a list of what each state has the most of and for once, Michigan appears to have come off well:

Michigan has the most lighthouses and the most engineers per capita. So if you’re a photographer looking for a romantic getaway weekend with an eligible engineer, then Michigan is your paradise.

Click through for the whole list from Alabama (racist tweets) to Wyoming (people who chew tobacco).

It was easy to find a connection between lighthouses (of which we once had 247, still at least 125) and engineers (60,000) in the person of Orlando Metcalfe Poe, who coincidentally enough, would be celebrating his 183rd birthday today. After reviewing his service in the Civil War, Terry Pepper of Seeing the Light writes in Orlando Metcalfe Poe: The Great Engineer of the Western Great Lakes:

With the end of the Civil War, Poe assumed the position of Engineer Secretary of the Lighthouse Board in 1865, in which capacity he was charged with the supervision of building projects. In 1870, he was promoted to Chief Engineer of the Upper Great Lakes Lighthouse District.

In this capacity, Poe was responsible for all lighthouse construction, and he was largely responsible for the design of a style of lighthouse tower that has become known as the “Poe style” tower. These towers are all tall brick structures, with a gentle taper from bottom to top. All of the Poe designed feature graceful embellishments in the form of masonry gallery support corbels and arch topped windows. Exemplified by the towers at Grosse Pointe and Presque Isle, all together Poe was responsible for the construction of a number of such towers throughout Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron.

…Many consider Poe’s crowning achievement to be the engineering, design and supervision of a new lock to at Sault St. Marie during the 1890’s. This project was instrumental in the development of commerce on the Great Lakes, permitting large ore carrying vessels from mining regions bordering Lake Superior to access the lower Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard. At a length of eight hundred feet, and with a width of 100 feet wide, the new lock was the largest in the world, and in honor of the designer was named “Poe Lock,” a name that it carries to this day.

Connect the dots to the Poe Reef Lighthouse, about which Lighthouse Friends explains:

From the southeast point of Bois Blanc Island, a spit covered with fifteen feet of water extends a mile into Lake Huron, and five-eighths of a mile beyond this spit lies dangerous Poe Reef, a detached shoal, with a least depth of just twelve feet. In 1892, the Craig Shipbuilding Company of Toledo, Ohio was contracted to build four lightships for use on the Great Lakes. LV 62, a wooden-hulled vessel with a length of just over eighty-seven feet, was placed on Poe Reef on September 29, 1893, while her three sister ships LV 59, LV 60, and LV 61 were stationed, respectively, on Bar Point, Eleven Foot Shoal, and Corsica Shoal. With a red hull and POE REEF stenciled on its sides in white letters, LV 62 displayed a fixed white light from her foremast to mark the north side of the eastern entrance to South Channel.

LV 62 served Poe Reef, which is named after Orlando M. Poe, who served as the chief engineer of the eleventh lighthouse district, through the 1910 season, and then swapped stations with LV 59. In 1915, Poe Reef received a steel-hulled lightship, when LV 96 replaced LV 59. LV 96 marked the reef through the 1920 shipping season, and the following spring LV 99 started its service at Poe Reef.

The Lake Carriers’ Association had requested a permanent lighthouse and fog signal for Poe Reef as early as 1913, but it wasn’t until 1926 that the Commissioner of Lighthouses requested funds for such a project. Besides being less costly to maintain, lighthouses had an additional advantage over lightships: they could remain on station throughout the year rather than having to be withdrawn when ice started to form on the lakes.

Read on for more information and photos of the Poe Reef lightship, the construction of the lighthouse and modern photos. Also tune in the Michpics Facebook for a recent photo of Poe Reef.

More history and lots more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures – enjoy your weekend everyone!

Round Goby

Round Goby, photo by Dave Brenner, Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes Echo reports that although a study has found that invasive round goby are “one of the most successful aquatic invaders” ever in the Great Lakes, smallmouth bass appear to be feasting on gobies:

25 years after their discovery in the Great Lakes, “we’re not documenting specific harms from gobies,” Popoff said, referring to feared environmental, economic and human health concerns.

In fact, there are indications of possible benefits from their presence, he said. For example, “we are seeing amazing smallmouth bass,” as well as some “amazing walleye,” while lake trout have modified their diets from sculpin to round gobies.

One possible exception, according to Popoff, is a decline in sculpin population as documented in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay because they compete with round gobies for space and food. However, scientists haven’t determined whether the lake’s overall sculpin population is down or whether they’ve merely moved to deeper areas with fewer round gobies.

…However, the study found the round goby is now a widely available food source for many native fish because of its “extreme abundance, tolerance to a variety of habitat conditions and relatively small size.”

In lakes Erie and Ontario, round gobies accounted for 75 percent of the smallmouth bass diet, Crane said. If all other species have maintained stable populations, that means the bass are putting less pressure on other food sources.

Nice to see the Great Lakes winning a battle – read on for lots more.

View the photo background big and see more in Michigan Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) slideshow.

NOAA Ice Coverage

Great Lakes Ice Coverage on Feb 23, 2015, photo by NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

In Great Lakes Total Ice Cover Nears 85% NOAA reports:

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is showing total ice cover of 84.4% as of February 22, 2015, well above the long term average and closing in on last year’s mark of 92.5% coverage on March 6, 2014. In this image, Lake Erie is a vast white plain, joining Lake Huron and Lake Superior with coverages above 90% and only small areas of open water. This image was taken by the Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument around 1803Z on February 23, 2015.

Click through to see it big as the Great Lakes and see more photos of the Great Lakes from high above if you click the “Great Lakes” keyword.

PS: Follow @NOAA@NOAA_GLERL & @NOAASatellites on Twitter for lots more great images!

Bad Ideas in Action

February 21, 2015

I need to provide a retraction of sorts for this post. While Enbridge Line 5 could carry the same corrosive tar sands of Keystone XL, it’s not a part of the XL network. It still most certainly could all the terrible impacts and remains a really bad idea.  More about Line 5 right here.

enbridge-pipeline-under-straits-of-mackinac

Broken Supports on the Straits Pipeline, photo courtesy National Wildlife Federation video

Here’s what we’re talking about when we talk about piping crude oil sludge under the Straits of Mackinac. It’s absolutely unfathomable to me how a politician could ever use “jobs” and “Keystone XL” in the same sentence except to say “Keystone XL could cost us tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Great Lakes if anything goes wrong.”

Eco Watch writes (in part):

This past July, National Wildlife Federation (NWF) conducted a diving expedition to obtain footage of aging oil pipelines strung across one of the most sensitive locations in the Great Lakes, and possibly the world: the Straits of Mackinac. Footage of these pipelines has never been released to the public until now.

The Straits of Mackinac pipelines, owned by Enbridge Energy, are 60-years-old and considered one of the greatest threats to the Great Lakes because of their age, location and the hazardous products they transport—including tar sands derived oil.

Click above to read more and watch the video or click here to watch it on YouTube. The dive footage starts at about 3 minutes, and at about 4 minutes in you can see drop camera footage from 200′ deep that shows unsupported pipeline hanging over the lake bed.

I know that some folks get upset when I wander into “politics” but I don’t even think this falls under politics. This falls under “companies using lobbying money & influence to do things that are really dangerous without proper safety controls.” You can clearly see from the video that this pipeline is an outdated and unsafe piece of junk, and the Great Lakes don’t belong to any company. In my opinion (which may be different from yours) it is incumbent on our elected officials to safeguard the Great Lakes for the economic benefit and enjoyment of us ALL.

PS: If the name Enbridge Energy sounds familiar, they’re the company that brought Michigan the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010.

PPS: (edit) The Jobs, Economy and the Great Lakes report by Michigan Sea Grant found that in 2009, more than 1.5 million Great Lakes-related jobs generated $62 billion in wages for the Great Lakes region. (report is linked at the right)

Carl D. Bradley

Carl D. Bradley, photo by John Rochon

If you know of any shipwreck on the Great Lakes, chances are it’s the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. While that was no doubt a terrible tragedy, my vote for the most grievous loss is the S.S. Carl D Bradley which sank 56 years ago next Tuesday on November 18, 1957. I found a really excellent article on the ship and shipwreck at Lake Effect Living titled Lost To The Lake: The Wreck of the Carl D. Bradley:

Known as ‘Queen of the Lakes’, the Carl D. Bradley was the largest ship on the Great Lakes from 1927 to 1949. At 639 feet, it was the longest freighter on the Lakes until the launch of the SS Wilfred Sykes twenty-two years later. The largest self-unloading ship for its time, the Bradley was the Bradley Transportation Company’s flagship. Named after the president of Michigan Limestone, Carl David Bradley, this state of the art freighter had its maiden voyage in the summer of 1927. Since Michigan Limestone’s company base was in Rogers City, Michigan, the freighter drew most of its crew from this small community.

…On Monday, November 17, 1958, the steamer left Buffington, Indiana bound for Port of Calcite harbor in Rogers City, Michigan.

The Bradley’s captain was 52-year old Roland Bryan, a veteran seaman. Manned by a crew of thirty-five and carrying a light cargo, the Bradley headed out onto Lake Michigan at 9:30pm. But signs of severe weather were already in evidence when they left Buffington, where winds gusted at more than 35 miles an hour. It was the first ominous indications of an extreme cold front forming over the plains. Temperatures in Chicago plummeted twenty degrees in one day, and thirty tornadoes were sighted from Texas to Illinois.

Aware that gale winds were forecast, the crew readied the steamer for bad weather. They traveled along the Wisconsin shore until reaching Cana Island, where they shifted course for Lansing Shoal which lay across Lake Michigan. The winds on the lake reached 65 miles an hour by 4pm the following day. Still, the Bradley seemed to be weathering the gale force winds and heavy seas with little problem. This changed at 5:30pm when the Port of Calcite received a radio message from First Mate Elmer Fleming informing them that the Bradley, approx. twelve miles southwest of Gull Island, would arrive home at 2am. As soon as this message was sent however, a loud thud or bang was heard on the ship.

When the day was done, 33 of the 35 member crew were dead, 23 of the from Rogers City, Michigan. For a town of less than 4000, it was a heavy blow. Read on for much more and also see Seeking Michigan: The Wreck of the Carl D. Bradley on Absolute Michigan and the tribute site at carldbradley.org.

John Rochon shared this photo of the Bradley was taken from the Blue Water Bridge by Schjelderup Marine Studio and shows the ship heading towards the mouth of Lake Huron. View it big as the Bradley and see more in his massive Great Lakes Ships & Shipping slideshow.

More shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Sugar Loaf Rock Mackinac Island

The Rock, photo by Sandy Hansen Photography

Here’s a color check-in from last week on Mackinac Island. The Mackinac Island State Park Commission says the following about Sugar Loaf rock romation:

Sugar Loaf, a 75 foot tall limestone stack, is the largest rock formation on Mackinac Island. When glacial Lake Algonquin covered much of the Island 11,000 years ago, Sugar Loaf was connected to the nearby bluff face (today called Point Lookout). Wave action slowly washed away the softer limestone between the stack and the bluff, leaving Sugar Loaf as a stand-alone feature. High water levels during the Lake Algonquin period left only the top of Sugar Loaf exposed, as evidenced by the small cave cut into the north face of the formation by wave action. This cave was originally on the shoreline of the lake.

As with other geological features on the Island, numerous Native American legends have been passed down relating to the origin of Sugar Loaf. One story relates that a young man asked the spirits for eternal life. In response, they turned him to stone, creating Sugar Loaf.

View Sandy’s photo bigger and see more of her Mackinac Island photos.

Also check out Arch Rock and the Devil’s Kitchen on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT: Frozen Straits

August 28, 2014

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge, photo by Mark Miller

OK, we’re not throwing back too far for this Thursday, but I wanted to share a really cool view that Mark took this February of the Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac locked in the grip of the Polar Vortex.

View his photo bigger and see more great views of Michigan from above in his Aerials slideshow. You can also see one of his aerial photos of the Straits from last August on Michigan in Pictures.

There’s more aerials and more Mackinac Bridge on Michigan in Pictures!

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