Riding out the storm on Poe Reef Lightship

Poe Reef Lightship LV62 riding out a storm on her station

Poe Reef lies just eight feet beneath Lake Huron’s surface between Bois Blanc Island and the Lower Peninsula mainland. Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light shares the story of Poe Reef Lightship LV62, launched on this day in 1893:

In 1892 two contracts totaling $55,960 were awarded to the Craig Shipbuilding Company in Toledo for the construction of four lightships. Designated as Lightships LV59, LV60, LV61 and LV62, all four vessels were built to similar specifications. Framed and planked of white oak they measured 87′ 2″ inches in length, 21′ 6″ inches in the beam, with a draft of 8 feet. In a cost-cutting effort, the vessels were un-powered, outfitted with only a small riding sail carried on a short after mast. Equipped with a cluster of three oil-burning lens lanterns hoisted on their foremasts, each was also equipped with 6″ steam whistles and hand-operated bells for fog use. Work was completed on the four vessels the following year, and after sea trials, all four were commissioned by the Board and placed into service, LV59 being assigned to Bar Point, LV60 to Eleven Foot Shoal, LV61 to Corsica Shoal and LV62 to Poe Reef.

With the words POE REEF brightly painted in white on her fire engine red hull, LV62 was towed to Poe Reef by the lighthouse tender Marigold, and anchored on station to begin her vigil on September 29, 1893. For the next seventeen years LV62 spent every shipping season faithfully guarding the shoal. With the end of each shipping season, one of the lighthouse tenders would make the rounds of all lightship stations in the Straits area, and tow them into Cheboygan harbor for winter lay-up. While in Cheboygan, necessary repairs and improvements would be made in preparation for the following season. At some time in March or April, the ice would break up sufficiently to allow the vessels to be towed back to their stations to stand guard for yet another season.

Head over to Seeing the Light for more about Poe Reef Lighthouse & the stories of all Michigan’s lighthouses compiled by a champion for their preservation who has gone too soon.

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Happy Birthday, St Helena

St Helena Light by Joel Dinda

St Helena Light by Joel Dinda

On September 20th way back in 1873, the beacon of the the St. Helena Island Lighthouse was lit for the first time. CMU’s Clarke Historical Library explains:

Because several ships had been wrecked on the dangerous shoals near the island of St. Helena in 1872, Congress authorized construction of a lighthouse at the southeast tip of the island. Since September 20, 1873, the beacon of the St. Helena Lighthouse has helped guide vessels safely through the Straits of Mackinac.

The light was first automated in 1922 and the modern lighthouse uses solar batteries to power the light.

In 1988, the lighthouse was added to the national Register of Historic Places. Recently restored to excellent condition by the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, the St. Helena Island Lighthouse continues to light up the Straights and provide a glimpse of the golden age of the Great Lakes’ lights.

Definitely check the Clarke Historical Library out – some great Michigan history there for sure!

Joel took this photo back in 2014 on a Lighthouse Cruise with Shepler Ferry / Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. See more shots in his Lighthouse Cruise 6/16/2014 gallery.

More lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures!

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The Age of Wooden Boats at Presque Isle Harbor

Presque Isle Harbor by John Hart

Presque Isle Harbor by John Hart

There’s some names that you see again & again in Michigan. One of these is “Presque Isle”. It means “almost island” in French so you can see why Michigan’s peninsula right coastline brought that to the minds of early French traders.

The US 23 Heritage Route shares that Presque Isle Harbor offers the only natural harbor on Lake Huron with a new marina offering water, restrooms, showers, diesel, electricity, pump-out, gasoline, launch, fishing pier, dog run, grills, and the Portage Restaurant. The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is a short walk up the path.

Check out the US-23 Heritage Route for more great summer touring options along this northeast Michigan highway!

John shared this cool photo of Presque Isle Harbor during the age of wooden boats. Check out his mix of old & new pics on his Flickr.

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Aqua Ice

Aqua Ice by Charles Bonham

Aqua Ice by Charles Bonham

There hasn’t been much in the way of ice buildup yet on Michigan’s Great Lakes so far in 2021, so I decided to reach back a couple of years to March of 2019 for this beauty from Au Gres on Lake Huron. The Causes of Color answers the question what causes the blue color that sometimes appears in snow and ice?

As with water, this color is caused by the absorption of both red and yellow light (leaving light at the blue end of the visible light spectrum). The absorption spectrum of ice is similar to that of water, except that hydrogen bonding causes all peaks to shift to lower energy – making the color greener. This effect is augmented by scattering within snow, which causes the light to travel an indirect path, providing more opportunity for absorption. From the surface, snow and ice present a uniformly white face. This is because almost all of the visible light striking the snow or ice surface is reflected back, without any preference for a single color within the visible spectrum.

The situation is different for light that is not reflected, but penetrates or is transmitted into the snow. As this light travels into the snow or ice, the ice grains scatter a large amount of light. If the light is to travel over any distance it must survive many such scattering events. In other words, it must keep scattering and not be absorbed. We usually see the light coming back from the near surface layers (less than 1 cm) after it has been scattered or bounced off other snow grains only a few times, and it still appears white.

In simplest of terms, think of the ice or snow layer as a filter. If it is only a centimeter thick, all the light makes it through; if it is a meter thick, mostly blue light makes it through. This is similar to the way coffee often appears light when poured, but much darker when it is in a cup.

Definitely check out more in Charles’ excellent Michigan Winter Ice gallery on Flickr.

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Michigan Lights Up the New Year!

Michigan Lights up the New Year by Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) UW-Madison

Michigan Lights Up the New Year by CIMSS UW-Madison

This satellite photo from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin shows:

…two of the first 2021 images from the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites when they flew over the U.S. overnight to acquire stunning VIIRS nighttime imagery with light from recently full moon (98% illumination). City lights shimmer in the wintry landscape while a large storm swirls in the Mississippi Valley. Including a zoom into the Great Lakes Region because there’s no place like home!

Indeed!! Head over to their Facebook page for more & congratulations for being a part of the most welcoming state from space on the planet!! ;) 

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Restore Your Spirit on Michigan’s Beaches!

Lisa Flaska Erickson Photography

Restore Your Spirit by Lisa Flaska Erickson Photography

“Take time in a place you love, restore your spirit on the beach.”
~Luanne Rice

An excellent piece of advice, particularly in these dark times. Fortunately, all of Michigan’s Great Lakes beaches are open to the public for walking by law, and you are never more 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes!

Lisa took this photo on Lake Huron on the beach by 40 Mile Point Lighthouse. For more pics, follow her on Facebook or on her Instagram @supqueen.

PS: If you want to “virtually restore” check out many more Michigan beaches on Michigan in Pictures.

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The Wreck of The Nordmeer

Wreck of the Nordmeer by Chris Roxburgh

Wreck of the Nordmeer by Chris Roxburgh

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary page on the 471′ cargo freighter Nordmeer that wrecked in 1966 in Thunder Bay says:

The career of the motorship Nordmeer ended abruptly when it miscalculated a turn and ran aground 7 miles northeast of Thunder Bay Island. Some crewmen stayed on board, but they evacuated a few days later when a storm struck and tore open the ship’s bottom. Part of the vessel stands out of the water, but years of storms and ice have broken and twisted the hull. The big diesel engine stands amid the wreckage, but the cargo has been removed. A steel barge rests alongside the wreck, a relic of extensive salvage work. Some artifacts may be seen today at NOAA’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center.

Chris dove the wreck a week ago and writes: “Bea and I had a big day of diving in Lake Huron today. We visited three shipwrecks and can’t wait to share some photos. This picture is the engine from the Nordmeer shipwreck near Rockport Michigan.”

Definitely follow Chris’s adventures on Facebook & check out his videos YouTube!

Tons more Michigan shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures!

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A Wave from Lake Huron

Lake Huron by Kare Hav

Lake Huron by Kare Hav

Gorgeous shot from the other day on Michigan’s east coast. See more in Karen’s dynamite Pt. Lookout/Au Gres gallery on Flickr & have a wonderful weekend!

More from Lake Huron on Michigan in Pictures.

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Sailing the Les Cheneaux

Sailing the Les Cheneaux by Susan H

Sailing the Les Cheneaux by Susan H

The Les Cheneaux Historical Association shares author Philip McM. Pittman’s summary of the Les Cheneaux Islands aka “the channels”:

Located at the northern tip of Lake Huron, on the south shore of Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula, the Les Cheneaux area was once a strategic international northern outpost and center of early exploration. But it was not until the early eighteen eighties that permanent homesteaders came in earnest to Les Cheneaux: Anthony Hamel came over from Mackinac Island, William A. Patrick arrived from Ontario, the Westons migrated north from Chicago, and the likes of Henry Clay Wisner and the McBain-Coryell clan appeared as the area’s first seasonal visitors.

From this decade can be traced the story of the evolution of the Les Cheneaux area from unwanted real estate into highly desirable timberland and, almost simultaneously, homestead settlement and summer resort community. Our story is an individually distinct as any in American history and as important as the opening and development of the Great Lakes and the integration of two great peninsulas into the State of Michigan.

More history on their website.

See more of this beautiful slice of Michigan in Susan’s Cedarville album on Flickr.

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Before the Mackinac Bridge: Remembering the Chief Wawatam

Chief Wawatam, St Ignace, MI by Bill Johnson

Chief Wawatam, St Ignace, MI by Bill Johnson

Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library shares that on August 21, 1984, the Chief Wawatam sailed for the last time:

Since she first sailed the Straits of Mackinac between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan in 1911, the Chief Wawatam carried thousands of passengers, automobiles, and railcars. The last coal-burning vessel on the Great Lakes, the Chief Wawatam made a name for herself for reliable, efficient service across the often-treacherous waters of the Straits. It was often the Chief who would deliver food and fuel to other Great Lakes vessels who became stuck in the thick winter ice.

After the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957, the crossing time was slashed from nearly an hour by ferry to a matter of minutes by car. While other ferries ceased running almost immediately, the Chief Wawatam stayed in service for another twenty-seven years before finally retiring. Four years later, the boat was sold to a Canadian firm that cut the 338-foot ferry down to a deck barge.

Bill took this photo back in 1979 & writes:

The Chief is closing in on the dock at St Ignace, MI after crossing the Straits of Mackinac with another load of freight cars. There’s a Soo Line crew waiting for the Wawatam’s arrival. They’re taking a break right now, as are the deck hands on the Chief. Soon, everyone will be hard at work, moving their share of America’s freight. This was a daily scene way back when and will never be repeated. I was lucky enough to catch the action on September 24, 1979.

See more in his Boats, Ships & stuff that sails album on Flickr & have a great weekend everyone!

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