#TBT with the Oldest Ship on the Great Lakes

Lake Michigan … barge pushing, photo by Ken Scott Photography

Here’s a shot of a familiar vessel, the St. Marys Challenger. As this article on the conversion of the Challenger says, eventually, age catches up with you:

St. Marys Challenger lived up to its name by defying that assertion longer than its counterparts. But after 107 years, the laker was taken out of service in November 2013 to be converted to a barge. Built in 1906, Challenger was the oldest operating freighter on the Great Lakes.

The decision to convert the 551-foot cement carrier followed a series of upgrades spanning several decades, including extensive hull rebuilding, installation of a self-unloading cargo system and a myriad of other structural upgrades. In the end, the owner was left with a Skinner Marine Uniflow four-cylinder reciprocating steam engine burning heavy fuel oil, outdated DC electric and an aged mechanical propulsion system that made operating the boat an ever-increasing expense.

…Port City Marine, based in Muskegon, Mich., considered its alternatives, including retrofitting Challenger with a diesel engine. Not only would that have cost about $20 million — nearly double the barge conversion project — but it would have saddled the company with ongoing expenses. And while a crew of 25 was needed to operate Challenger, the articulated tug-barge (ATB) can operate with 11.

Read on for lots more!

View Ken’s photo bigger on Facebook, follow Ken Scott Photography on Facebook and visit kenscottphotography.com to view & purchase photos!

Today is not the Earth’s Longest Day

Untitled, photo by Jim Schoensee

The summer solstice arrives at 12:24 AM tomorrow when sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator, making today the longest day of  2017. Vox’s article on the summer solstice has some interesting info about the solstice including a look at whether or not today is the longest day in Earth’s history:

Ever since the Earth has had liquid oceans and a moon, its rotation has been gradually slowing over time due to tidal friction. That means — over very, very long periods of time — the days have been getting steadily longer. About 4.5 billion years ago, it took the Earth just six hours to complete one rotation. About 350 million years ago, it took 23 hours. Today, of course, it takes about 24 hours. And the days will gradually get longer still.

Given that, you’d think 2017 would be the longest day in all of history. But while it’s certainly up there, it doesn’t quite take top honors.

That’s because tidal friction isn’t the only thing affecting Earth’s rotation — there are a few countervailing factors. The melting of glacial ice, which has been occurring since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago (and is now ramping up because of global warming), is actually speeding up Earth’s rotation very slightly, shortening the days by a few fractions of a millisecond. Likewise, geologic activity in the planet’s core, earthquakes, ocean currents, and seasonal wind changes can also speed up or slow down Earth’s rotation.

When you put all these factors together, scientists have estimated that the longest day in Earth’s history (so far) likely occurred back in 1912. That year’s summer solstice was the longest period of daylight the Northern Hemisphere has ever seen (and, conversely, the 1912 winter solstice was the longest night we’ve ever seen).

Eventually, the effects of tidal friction should overcome all those other factors, and Earth’s days will get longer and longer as its rotation keeps slowing (forcing timekeepers to add leap seconds to the calendar periodically). Which means that in the future, there will be plenty of summer solstices that set new records as the “longest day in Earth’s history.”

View Jim’s photo of the Charlevoix Lighthouse on the summer solstice in 2010 bigger and see more in his Charlevoix Lighthouse slideshow.

Does Nordhouse Dunes have Michigan’s Best Sunrise?

Nordhouse Dunes Sunrise, photo by Shane Blood Photography

That’s the question the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area Facebook page asked Michigan in Pictures on Facebook. It’s a good question. Click over and let them know what you think!

The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area:

…is a Federally designated wilderness in Michigan’s lower peninsula and encompasses 3,450 acres of National Forest. Nordhouse Dunes is part of the Ludington Dune Ecosystem, which also includes Lake Michigan Recreation Area, and Ludington State Park. The dunes were formed 3,500 to 4,000 years ago and stand up to 140 feet high. Ludington Dune Ecosystem has the largest area of fresh water interdunal ponds in the world. The interdunal ponds, small water holes and marshes, decorate the area. Dune grass covers many of the dunes and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species.

The Nordhouse Dunes are interspersed with woody vegetation such as juniper, jack pine and hemlock. Plant life is varied and includes the Federally Endangered Pitcher’s Thistle. The sand beach along the lake varies from narrow to wide and is home to the Federally Endangered Piping Plover, a shore bird that nests on the ground in small cobbles.

The wilderness area is popular for hiking, camping, hunting, nature study and wildlife viewing. There are approximately 10-miles of trail that can be accessed from 2 developed trailheads at the end of Nurnberg Road and Lake Michigan Recreation Area.

View the photo bigger and head over to Shane Blood Photography on Facebook for more shots from Nordhouse Dunes.

More Michigan sunrises on Michigan in Pictures!

Manitou Morning Mirror

Manitou Islands in the morning, photo by Glen Arbor Artisans

North and South Manitou Island are part of an island chain that extends north to the Straits of Mackinac and includes the Fox Islands and Beaver Island. South Manitou Island is just over 8 square miles in land area and is about 7 miles from Glen Arbor while North Manitou Island is about 22 square miles and a little over 10 miles from Glen Arbor. More about the Manitou Islands from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

View the photo bigger, and follow Glen Arbor & Glen Arbor Artisans on Facebook for more photography from Paul!

Sunset Waterspout

Sunset Waterspout, photo by Kyler Phillips

The National Weather Service in Gaylord has a page on the Science of Waterspouts that says in part:

Dr. Joseph Golden, a distinguished waterspout authority with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), defines the waterspout as a “funnel which contains an intense vortex, sometimes destructive, of small horizontal extent and which occurs over a body of water.” The belief that a waterspout is nothing more than a tornado over water is only partially true. The fact is, depending on how they form, waterspouts come in two types: tornadic and fair weather.

Tornadic waterspouts generally begin as true tornadoes over land in association with a thunderstorm, and then move out over the water. They can be large and are capable of considerable destruction. Fair weather waterspouts, on the other hand, form only over open water. They develop at the surface of the water and climb skyward in association with warm water temperatures and high humidity in the lowest several thousand feet of the atmosphere. They are usually small, relatively brief, and less dangerous. The fair weather variety of waterspout is much more common than the tornadic.

Waterspouts occur most frequently in northern Michigan during the months of August, September, and October, when the waters of the Great Lakes are near their warmest levels of the year. Waterspout formation typically occurs when cold air moves across the Great Lakes and results in large temperature differences between the warm water and the overriding cold air. They tend to last from about two to twenty minutes, and move along at speeds of 10 to 15 knots.

Kyler caught this spout when checking out the storm front last Monday evening. View the photo bigger and follow Kyler on Instagram at KingKPhil.

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.