July 23, 2015
Soo Ice Jam of 1953, shared by John Rodawn
The Ludington Daily News from April 9, 1953 had an article titled Try to Clear Soo Lock Ice with Freighters’ Backwash that said:
SAULT STE. MARIE MICHIGAN – Three powerful lakes craft churned their propellers in a huge “Operations Backwash” today hopeful they could clear the Sault locks of an ice jam which has lied up nearly one-third of the Great Lakes fleet. The Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw was joined by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company freighter Arthur Anderson and the Canadian freighter Manladoc (not sure this is the right name) in the operation. Shipping men and lock engineers decided on the maneuver after an aerial survey showed the Whitefish Bay area, above the locks, was entirely free of the ice formation which has passed into the proper.
The three craft were tied up side by side at a dock and then went into action, with the propellers turning at full speed to churn up the water. Officials were hopeful the backwash would push the icy mess about 800 feet upstream, against the current, and get the ice in a position so it would be caught in a cross – current and washed over the Soo Rapids and out of the locks area. Coast Guard Commander T. A. Dahlburg of the Sault area expressed belief the ice would be cleared by this weekend, perhaps as early as Friday. Dahlburg reported 90 lake craft were tied up above the locks awaiting passage, while 64 were tied up below the locks upward bound. He called it the largest concentration of shipping ever assembled in the Sault area.
Under Dahlburg’s plan to keep some traffic operating, only the most powerful of the lake freighters and carriers were permitted to make their way downbound through the icy slush in the American locks. The only upbound traffic yesterday was through the Canadian lock, seven vessels passing through while 17 came down on the U.S. side.
June 19, 2015
While I’ve shared numerous photos from the Soo Locks, I’ve never provided the history of one of Michigan’s defining marvels. The Sault Ste. Marie Convention & Visitors Bureau has a brief Soo Locks history:
In 1797, the Northwest Fur Company constructed a navigation lock 38 feet long on the Canadian side of the river for small boats. This lock remained in use until destroyed in the War of 1812. Freight and boats were again portaged around the rapids.
Congress passed an act in 1852 granting 750,000 acres of public land to the State of Michigan as compensation to the company that would build a lock permitting waterborne commerce between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. The Fairbanks Scale Company, which had extensive mining interests in the Upper Penninsula, undertook this challenging construction project in 1853.
In spite of adverse conditions, Fairbanks’ aggressive accountant, Charles T. Harvey, completed a system of two locks, in tandem, each 350 feet long, within the 2 year deadline set by the State of Michigan. On May 31, 1855, the locks were turned over to the state and designated as the State Lock.
The federal government took control of the property and the lock system in the 1870’s. Their stewardship continues today, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Soo Locks are the busiest locks in the world, and include the largest lock in the Western Hemisphere, completed in 1968.
You can click through for some more information and pictures, but definitely head over to the Detroit Army Corps of Engineers Soo Locks History page for a timeline of all the locks that have been built. You can also get an animated demo of how the locks work and look in on the locks via the Soo Locks Webcams.
August 26, 2014
Matt linked over to Top Plants: Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in PowerMag, which says (in part):
Hydroelectric projects are unique in that as long as the water is flowing and the mechanicals are periodically upgraded, there are few reasons their turbines won’t continue making electricity into the next century. The energy source may be renewable, but so is the plant itself. An exceptional example is Michigan’s 107-year-old Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant, which combines historic architecture with modern technology to successfully generate 25 to 30 MW of electricity when operating at full load.
…Excavation of the hydropower plant’s canal began in September 1898 and was completed in 1902. Concurrently, construction of the Edison Sault Electric Hydroelectric Plant began in March 1900 and was completed in 1902. Official opening of the facility was held on October 25, 1902. At the time of completion, the plant was second only to Niagara Falls in terms of hydro development.
The facility is constructed of stone and steel. Much of the stone that was used was excavated from the power canal during its construction. Additional stone was used on other local landmarks throughout the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
You can read on for more (including diagrams) and visit the Cloverland Electric Cooperative Hydroelectric Plant page for more!
More from Sault Ste. Marie on Michigan in Pictures!
March 26, 2014
Although the Soo Locks opened yesterday, UpNorthLive reports that for the first time in 20 years no ships passed through. Click through for a video story that includes footage from the Locks and an interview with Soo Locks Lock Master Tom Soeltner.
About the photo, the Coast Guard News writes:
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw steers the cutter through the fog as it passed through the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., March 21, 2014. The Mackinaw along with the Coast Guard Cutters Morro Bay and Katmai Bay passed through the locks together en route to breaking ice in the St. Marys River and Lake Superior in preparation of the scheduled opening of the Locks, March 25. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi Read.
May 9, 2013
The Library of Congress page on the Sault Ste. Marie International Railroad Bridge that spans the Soo Locks from Michigan to Canada at St. Marys Falls explains that:
The Sault Ste. Marie International Railroad Bridge has nine camelback truss spans crossing the St. Marys River with bascule and vertical lift bridge components crossing the American Locks at the St. Marys Falls Canal. It is the only bridge in the United States known to include these three types of spans in a single structure to use an interlocking mechanism to connect the leaves of the double-leaf bascule span.
It is Michigan’s most significant railroad bridge from an engineering history standpoint and is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
More Michigan bridges on Michigan in Pictures.
May 27, 2011
The Fresnel lens is the 1822 invention of French physicist Augustine Fresnel who invented a lens that would make his name commonplace along the seacoasts of Europe and North America. Most lenses were handmade and shipped unassembled from France. Others were made in England. Early lens designs resembled a giant glass beehive, with a light at the center. The lens could be as tall as twelve feet high with concentric rings of glass prisms above and below a center drum section to bend the light into a narrow beam. Later designs incorporated a bull’s eye design into the center of the lens shaped like a magnifying glass, so the concentrated beam was even more powerful. Tests showed that while an open flame lost nearly 97% of its light, and a flame with reflectors behind it still lost 83% of its light, the Fresnel lens was able to capture all but 17% of its light. Because of its amazing efficiency, a Fresnel lens could easily throw its light 20 or more miles to the horizon.
Definitely read on to learn how flash panels or bull’s eyes were used to distinguish one light from the next and to view the different orders of Fresnel lenses that were used on the Great Lakes and also see Wikipedia’s Fresnel lens entry.
If you’re out and about this weekend, take some time to stop in at a Michigan museum!
December 17, 2009
This photo was taken by an unknown person on an unknown winter day on Water Street in Sault Sainte Marie. Wikipedia says that Sault Ste. Marie is the county seat of Chippewa County and the second most populous city in the Upper Peninsula.
Founded as a mission in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest European settlement in the Midwest. A fur trading settlement soon grew up at this crossroads on both banks of the river, making the area the center of the 3,000-mile fur trade route extending west from Montreal to the Sault, then to the country north of Lake Superior.
The town was split into two in 1797, when the Upper Peninsula was transferred from the province of Upper Canada to the United States.
Sault Sainte Marie is Old French for “falls of St. Mary” (Sault de Sainte Marie), a reference to the rapids in the St. Marys River, which joins Lake Superior to Lake Huron. The spelling Sault-Sainte-Marie is more usual in French, but the name is written without hyphens in English. Both cities and the vicinity as a whole are often referred to as the Sault or the Soo.