Stillwater

Stillwater, photo by Jamey Robertson

One of the things I love about spring in Michigan – even in a very windy spring like 2017 – are those days when the water is smooth as glass.

View the photo of the soon to be filled Northport Marina bigger and follow Jamey on Instagram for more.

Michigan’s Tallest: Sand Dunes Edition

Empire Bluff, photo by Pantheos

The author of my favorite Michigan blogs writes that Michigan is blessed with some of the most beautiful and tallest coastal sand dunes on the planet. He decided to climb some and put together a big old list of 87 Michigan’s ‘skyscraper’ Coastal Dunes that he could verify at 100′ or more in height.

This photo is from the tallest one, the 526-foot Empire Bluff Dune in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (which includes many of the tallest). To put this in perspective, it’s almost exactly 200′ shorter that our tallest building, the Renaissance Center in Detroit as well as One Detroit Center and the Penobscot, but it’s taller than the 4th highest – the Guardian Building.

More photos and a list of all the dunes on the post, including the option to follow!

More dunes on Michigan in Pictures.

Sunset & cloud shadows over West Bay

26 April 2017 West Bay Leelanau County, photo by John Robert Williams Photography

Here’s a ridiculous sunset that my friend John captured on Wednesday night over West Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. The Rays & Shadows page from our friends at Atmospheric Optics identifies these as “cloud shadows” and says that they are basically the reverse of crepuscular rays, the beams of light that stream through gaps in clouds.

View it bigger and see more on John’s Facebook.

Six Degrees from the White Shoal Lighthouse

White Shoal Lighthouse Aerial, photo by US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

A reader shared a link to this photo with me, and this weekend I met a woman whose husband is a mechanic for the helicopter that took this photo. I thought that was pretty cool, but I also was putting groceries in my car at the local Meijer and a van pulled in a couple of slots down with a “White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society” logo on it! I talked for a bit with Brent who’s heading up the group, and I expect to have updates and photos as they get going with their renovation!

I also noticed that the photo from back in 2009 I had of this light has been removed by the photographer, so here’s the skinny on one of Michigan’s most recognizablelight houses.  White Shoals are located 20 miles east of Mackinac Point and just northwest of Waugoshance Island. So shallow that they break the surface in places, they long presented a hazard to navigation for ships entering the Straits of Mackinac. On his White Shoal Lighthouse page, Terry Pepper relates that beginning in October of 1891, the Lightship LV56 anchored at White Shoal during the shipping season for 19 years. Finally in 1907 funds were appropriated for a permanent lighthouse:

Spring of 1908 saw work begin on the White Shoal light on two separate fronts. While a crew at the site leveled a one hundred and two-foot square area on the shoal through the addition and careful placement of loads of stone, a second crew worked on building a timber crib on shore at St. Ignace. Seventy-two feet square and eighteen and a half feet high, the huge crib contained 400,000 square feet of lumber, and on completion was slowly towed out to the shoal and centered over the leveled lake bottom. Once in location, the crib was filled with 4,000 tons of stone until it sank to a point at which its uppermost surface was level and two feet below the water’s surface.

On top of this crib, a seventy-foot square stone block base was constructed to a total height of four feet, with the remainder of the pier being of poured concrete atop the block base. With the base complete, an acetylene-powered lens lantern was installed atop a temporary steel skeletal tower on December 5th, and with the onset of winter storms, work at the shoal ended for the season.

Seeing the Light has much more about the construction and history of White Shoal Light including shots of the tower and crib under construction and information about lighthouse tours offered by Shepler’s Ferry, on which you can see White Shoal, Waugoshance and Gray’s Reef Lights.

Wikipedia’s entry for the White Shoal Light notes that White Shoal is the only aluminum-topped lighthouse on the Great Lakes, the only ‘barber pole’ lighthouse in the United States and is the lighthouse featured on Michigan’s Save Our Lights license plate. There’s also a link to really cool Google Map of lighthouses in northern Lake Michigan. There’s a few more pics of White Shoal at boatnerd.

View the photo bigger and follow the US Coast Guard Traverse City on Facebook for lots more cool photos from their missions!

More aerial photos & more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.

Fog rolling over the Narrows

Fog rolling in over the Narrows, photo by Unique View Photography

Here’s a look at North & South Lake Leelanau with “The Narrows” in between. I live just off the right edge of this picture and thought it was pretty cool how the spring fog completely covered Lake Michigan in this picture, creating a lake of fog!

See the photo bigger on Facebook and follow Elijah on Facebook.

More aerial photos on Michigan in Pictures.

A Little Light Changes Everything

A Little Light Changes Everything, photo by John Gessner

I hope that you get a chance to get out there this weekend and let the sunlight in!

View John’s photo bigger and see more in his Michigan Water slideshow.

Cruise to 32 Lighthouses including the Skillagalee Island Light!

Ile aux Galets, courtesy Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light

I just learned about a super-cool cruise for lighthouse lovers that also benefits the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. mLive reports:

There are 80 spots available for the trip which takes place in the northern part of Lake Michigan June 5-9. It is presented by the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, which oversees the care of two lighthouses in the region. Guests travel aboard the Shepler’s Ferry vessel HOPE and stay at different resorts along the way, including Weathervane Terrace Inn & Suites in Charlevoix and Stone Harbor Resort in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.

“It’s an awesome thing to do,” said Terry Pepper, executive director. “Lighthouses were built for the mariners so by going out to see them the way they were designed for from the water is unique.”

Click above for more and make reservations at gllka.com. Speaking of Terry Pepper, let’s add another Michigan lighthouse! Via Terry’s excellent Seeing the Light website here’s the Skillagalee Island Light Station:

Skillagalee Island is located some 7.7 miles Southwest of Waugoshance Island on the East side of the approach to the Gray’s Reef Passage. The tiny island represents but a small exposed portion of a large gravel shoal that extends 1.8 miles to its East and a half a mile to the Northwest.

Being very low in elevation, the island is barely visible except from close by, and to exacerbate the problem, the size of its exposed surface fluctuates dramatically with the level of the surrounding water. The island was considered a navigational hazard during the earliest days when the French Voyageurs took the time to name the place “Ile aux Galets,” which translates as “Island of Pebbles.”

A is so often the case, the English speaking mariners and settlers found the French name difficult to pronounce, and “Ile aux Galets” soon unofficially mutated into “Skillagalee.” The anglicized version took hold, and by the mid 1800’s references to the original French name all but disappeared.

While Skillagalee laid claim to many wrecks over the years, the grounding of the A.D. PATCHIN was seminal in the call for the construction of an aid to navigation on the island. The PATCHIN was a 226 foot wood-hulled sidewheel steamer built in Trenton Michigan in 1846. Laden with general merchandise, she was making her way into Grays Reef Passage on September 27, 1850, when the currents pulled her out of line and onto shore at Skillagalee. While her crew managed to escape to safety and the initial damage to her hull was minimal, the weather turned evil and thwarted a number of attempts to pull her free. By late November she had been pounded to pieces, becoming yet another of Lake Michigan’s many victims.

To answer the need for a navigational aid to warn mariners of the shoal’s existence, Congress appropriated the necessary funds to construct a light on Skillagalee Island in 1851. As a result of the exposed location and fluctuating water tables, the tower was in constant need of repair, a cycle that would be repeated throughout the station’s history.

Read on for more and check ou tSeeing the Light for more Great Lakes Lighthouses!