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!

Somewhere in Light

Somewhere in Light, photo by Kristina Austin Scarcelli

mLive reports that the Government Services Administration is taking bids from nonprofit or community groups to take stewardship of the Round Island Passage Light before auctioning it off. Click through for all the details.

Lighthouse Friends has a page on the Round Island Passage Lighthouse that includes the entry from the 1948 Coast Guard Bulletin on this light that replaced the Round Island Lighthouse (in the background on the left):

The substructure of the new lighthouse, 56 feet square up to the 1 foot line below mean low water, is a timber crib with cells at the perimeter filled with concrete and internal cells filled with 5-inch to 14-inch rock. The superstructure is concrete with a reinforced concrete deck. It has four vertical and four sloping sides, giving the lighthouse a new and unusually trim appearance. The tower is appropriately ornamented on each side with a 4- or 5-foot Indian Head plaque, symbolic of the area.

But the most interesting thing about Round Island Passage Light Station is its main light. Located in the top section of the 41 ½-foot tower, it is indeed a departure from the “single light source” arrangement that has been in use for centuries. This new light apparatus is a solid bank of sealed beam lamps of 3,000 candlepower which produce a characteristic of occulting green every 10 seconds. It is visible 16 miles. (These sealed beam lamps are similar to your present day automobile headlights.)

The fog signal consists of two air operated diaphragm horns, sounding simultaneously with 3 seconds blast and 27 seconds silence. The radiobeacon is class B. Distance finding is also provided.

The passage between Mackinac Island and Round Island has long been regarded as extremely hazardous. It is now adequately guarded by Round Island Passage Light Station. This will result in a saving of time on trips and will relieve the congestion of Poe Reef Channel. This, in turn, will increase Great Lakes’ tonnage.

View Kristina’s photo bigger and see more in her Michigan Lighthouses slideshow.

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