Isle Royale Wolf

The Urge, photo by isleroyalewolf.org

Last weekend the Freep reported that the delicate biosphere that characterized Isle Royale National Park is about to fall apart. The wolf count is down from nine last year to only three, and Michigan Tech ecologist John Vucetich says he wouldn’t be surprised if none remain next winter.

“What’s really important here is not the presence of wolves, per se,” Vucetich said. “But the wolves need to be able to perform their ecological function — predation. Predation has been essentially nil for the past four years now.”

That’s led to a 22% increase in the moose population for each of the past four years, he said, taking the island population from 500 to 1,200 moose. An individual moose consumes up to 40 pounds of vegetation a day.

“One of the most basic lessons we know in ecology, wherever creatures like moose live, you have to have a top predator,” he said. “If you don’t, the herbivore can cause a great deal of harm to the vegetation.”

… Vucetich and his colleague at Michigan Tech, Rolf Peterson, both support a “genetic rescue” of the island’s wolf population — bringing in wolves from elsewhere to bolster island wolves and help facilitate breeding. The U.S. Forest Service is studying the concept, but that process may take years. If the remaining wolf population doesn’t survive, and the Forest Service ultimately approves of the plan, it may mean creating a whole new pack on the island.

I think that this poses very interesting questions about our role in the ecosystems we seek to preserve. Are we to watch what happens and not interfere like a kid watching an ant farm or a Star Fleet team, or do we accept the responsibility of our decision to preserve and seek to maintain the natural balances and populations? As our climate changes, we will no doubt be called to make these decisions more and more frequently as flora and fauna lose the ability to survive in the places we have set aside for them.

This photo was the first in a series of 40 shared last fall in “Thinking Like an Island” from the Wolves & Moose of Isle Royale. They wrote:

THE URGE. Walk 40 miles in two days searching for a lover that may not even exist. Return home to parents and siblings the next day. The life of a dispersing wolf, unsatisfied.

It’s a great series featuring images by George Desort, Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich, and Brian Rajdl along with text by John Vucetich and Michael Paul Nelson. Click to see this photo bigger on Facebook and then use your left arrow to page through them.

Definitely visit isleroyalewolf.org for lots more about the predator/prey balance of one of Michigan’s most fascinating places.

Testament of a Fisherman

April 24, 2015

Testament of a Fisherman by Aaron Peterson

Testament of a Fisherman, photo by Aaron Peterson Photography

My friend Aaron Peterson shared this on Facebook last night. It’s built around the words of one my very favorite writers, Michigander John Voelker (aka Robert Traver). I hope you enjoy it – Aaron writes:

Please enjoy this new video I did for Travel Marquette.

In 1964 Ishpeming native John Voelker published his essay “Testament of a Fisherman” summarizing in just 200 words the power of rivers and the solace one finds in trout fishing. When I came to Marquette in 2001 I didn’t have much, but I had a fly rod and a library card. In the library I found the words of John Voelker, and on the rivers of the Upper Peninsula I found a purpose. To be able to do this project and adapt Voelker’s words, with permission from his family, was very important to me on many different levels.

A lot has changed in the 50 years since he wrote this, but the health of our water, wild fish and time spent away from phones and crowds is more important than ever. Enjoy, share, then get the hell off your computer and get in the woods. Maybe to Marquette, because they paid the bill for this inspiration smile emoticon Thanks to Fly Fishing Michigan’s U.P. Nick from Ore Dock Brewing Company and all those who fight for the sanctity of our water. –AP

(the video is beautiful – view it full screen if you can!)

View Aaron’s photo bigger on Facebook and follow his page for the latest. Definitely check out his website too. He has some crazy photos of the U.P.’s incredible adventure offerings!

Shift Change at Mackinac Bridge

“Shift Change” – Mackinac Bridge construction, 1956, photo by otisourcat

What’s your commute looking like today? Mightymac.org has a great account of building the Mackinac Bridge, a process that began on May 7, 1954 and was completed November 1, 1957. It begins:

Construction of the Mackinac Bridge began with the construction of the pillars. Caissons were constructed, floated into position and sunk to provide the footings for the two immense towers which would suspend the center span of the bridge. Once the caissons were in place, creeper derricks were added, which raised materials to erect the towers and continued to climb higher.

The Mackinac Bridge roadway truss sections were assembled in sections and floated into position to be raised into place.

Constructing the Mackinac Bridge actually went on into 1958 and took 48 months, 3,500 workers, 895,000 blueprints & structural drawings, 71,300 tons of structural steel, 931,000 tons of concrete, 42,000 miles of cable wire, 4,851,700 steel rivets, 1,016,600 steel bolts and 99,800,000 dollars. There were 350 engineers and another 7,500 men & women worked at quarries, shops, mills and other locations.

When completed, the Mackinac Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and it is currently the longest suspension bridge in North & South America and the third longest suspension bridge in the world.

Read on for lots more including excellent photos of the process and also see these photos of construction of the Mackinac Bridge from the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

otisourcat writes: This is a color slide, but the aged Ektachrome color is so wonky, that the image is much clearer in B&W. View the photo bigger and see more Mackinac shots right here.

There’s lots more Mackinac Bridge photos & info and lots more Throw Back Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan and Earth Day

April 22, 2015

Flags of our Grandparents

Flags of our grandparents, photo by PhotoLab507

Today is the 45th Earth Day, and many many not be aware of Michigan’s role in this holiday. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an excellent feature titled Turbulent Origins of Ann Arbor’s First Earth Day that looks at the national movement in the late 60s to call attention to environmental degradation:

One of the first tasks facing the national organization was to choose a date for the proposed mass teach-ins. They settled on April 22 – “Earth Day,” as it would eventually be named – largely because that date fell optimally between spring break and final exams for most American colleges. (The fact that it is also Lenin’s birthday is apparently a complete coincidence.) But the University of Michigan operated then as now on a trimester system, with April 22 falling right in the middle of finals. As a result, the U-M environmental teach-in was scheduled for mid-March 1970.

The fact that it took place more than a month prior to national Earth Day has led to the misconception that the ENACT teach-in launched Earth Day, or that U-M was host to the first Earth Day celebration. In fact there were environmental events on other campuses as early as December 1969. But that does not in any way diminish the importance of the Ann Arbor event, which was to have a huge influence on the course of what has been called the largest mass demonstration in American history – Earth Day 1970, in which an estimated 20 million people participated.

“The University of Michigan teach-in was not the first or even the second or third – a few small liberal arts colleges had environmental teach-ins in January and February 1970,” says Adam Rome, a professor of history at Penn State who is working on a book about Earth Day. ”But the Michigan event was by far the biggest, best, and most influential of the pre-Earth Day teach-ins. The media gave it tremendous coverage. It was the first sign that Earth Day would be a big deal.”

…Events ran from the early morning until well after midnight, on topics such as overpopulation – “Sock It to Motherhood: Make Love, Not Babies” – the future of the Great Lakes, the root causes of the ecological crisis, and the effect of war on the environment. More than sixty major media outlets covered the action, including all three American television networks and a film crew from Japan. It was the biggest such event that had yet been seen in Ann Arbor – and coming as it did at the tail end of the sixties, it would be one of the last.

At the kickoff rally around 14,000 people paid fifty cents to crowd into Crisler Arena and listen to speeches by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Michigan governor William Milliken, radio personality Arthur Godfrey, and ecologist Barry Commoner, and groove to the music of Hair and Gordon Lightfoot. Another 3,000 who couldn’t get in listened on loudspeakers that were hastily set up in the parking lot.

Read on for lots more and you can also view a video from the first Earth Day at the University of Michigan Bentley Library.

The photographer shared a nice lyric too from Carol Johnson:

The Earth is my mother / She good to me / she gives me everything that I ever need
food on the table/ the clothes I wear/ the sun and the water and the cool, fresh air

View the photo bigger and see more in their slideshow.

Torch Lake Afterglow

April 21, 2015

Torch Lake Afterglow

Torch Lake Afterglow, photo by Heather Higham

Wikipedia shares that at 19 miles long, Torch Lake is Michigan’s longest inland lake, and our second largest inland lake*.

The name of the lake is not due to its shape, rather, is derived from translation from the Ojibwa name Was-wa-gon-ong meaning “Place of the Torches”, referring to the practice of the local native American population who once used torches at night to attract fish for harvesting with spears and nets. For a time it was referred to by local European settlers as “Torch Light Lake”, which eventually was shortened to its current name.

View Heather’s photo bigger and see more Torch Lake goodness (including some nothern lights) in her slideshow.

* If you’re curious to see the lineup, Houghton is biggest and the rest are right here.

Wreckage of the Rising Sun

Wreckage of the Rising Sun, photo by U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

Yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City shared a collection of photos from the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve, writing”

We can call it “Shipwreck Sunday” – With Lake Michigan ice gone for the season the crystal clear, deep blue waters of northern Michigan are back (albeit still VERY VERY cold at an average of 38 degrees).

During a routine patrol this past Friday, an aircrew captured these photos of a handful of the many shipwrecks along the Lake Michigan shoreline. These photos were taken near Sleeping Bear Point northeast along the shoreline to Leland, Michigan up to Northport.

Information on the shipwrecks is scarce, please post if you recognize any of the photographed sites.

View the Coast Guard’s photo bigger and click through for photos of other wrecks including the James McBride. Definitely follow them on Facebook for more cool shots of Michigan’s coastline from above!

Regarding the Rising Sun, the Leelanau Enterprise shares Leelanau historian George Weeks account of the wreck that includes a photo of the grounded Sun:

In October 1917, the Rising Sun went to High Island to get potatoes, rutabagas and lumber to take to Benton Harbor. On 29 October, in one of the early-season snowstorms that sweep the Lakes, the Rising Sun went aground at Pyramid Point. Lifeboats were launched and all thirty-two people aboard eventually saved.

As was often the case with Great Lakes wrecks, shoreline residents, not the U.S. Coast Guard, were the first to provide assistance. In this case, Fred Baker, summoned in the night by survivors pounding at the door of his home atop the Port Oneida bluff, was the first to respond. He hastened to his barn, quickly unloaded 60 bushels of potatoes that were on his wagon, hitched his team, and went down to the beach. The survivors, including a woman found unconscious on the beach, were brought to Baker’s house. (By the 1990s, Baker’s daughter, Lucille, who was four years old at the time of the wreck, was still residing at Port Oneida, the wife of Jack Barratt, great grandson of Port Oneida settler Carsten Burfiend.)

The Coast Guard beach rescue rig arrived from Glen Haven, pulled by two teams of horses borrowed from D.H. Day. A man who was asleep when the others abandoned ship was rescued by the guardsmen.

Remains of the Rising Sun are visible from the shore on a clear day, and are popular for recreational divers. As with other wrecks, the remains are protected objects within the Manitou Passage Bottomland Preserve.

Read more about the Rising Sun, it’s caro and final voyage and the House of David that owned it from Chris Mills and see more shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Ice bound, Whitefish Bay

April 18, 2015

Ice bound, Whitefish Bay

Ice bound, Whitefish Bay, photo by Thom Skelding

Here’s a cool shot from last Saturday on Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. I hope that you’re shaking off the ice and getting out to enjoy whatever spring is serving up close to you.

View Thom’s photo background big and see more great shots from Whitefish Bay and elsewhere in his slideshow.

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