Make Isle Royale your office in 2022!

Tobin Harbor Sunrise by Carl TerHaar

Tobin Harbor Sunrise by Carl TerHaar

How would you like to wake up to this view?? Well, if you are a college student, the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Research Project is seeking volunteers to assist with data collection for the 2022 summer field season. Students studying natural resources, conservation, ecology, or related fields will gain valuable field work experience working with distinguished researchers in Isle Royale National Park in the longest continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world. 

The opportunity is for 4-5 weeks between early-May and mid-June, and requires students to have documented experience backpacking & camping for extended periods of time in remote settings, proficiency with orienteering, and  the ability to get along with others in backcountry settings for 10-day periods of time are all critical. Get the full rundown of qualifications, activities & more on their website at IsleRoyaleWolf.org.

Carl is definitely Michigan in Pictures’s Isle Royale Bureau Chief! His photos feature prominently in our posts about Isle Royale & his photo of a Bull Moose Faceoff is one of the most popular photos of all time on Michigan in Pictures. He  took this way back in the summer of 2009, and you can see hundreds more in his Isle Royale National Park gallery on Flickr. For sure head over to his Mackinaw Scenics website to view & purchase his work!

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#TBT: Walking with the Icefoot on Agate Beach

Winter morning on Agate Beach by Gary McCormick

Winter morning on Agate Beach by Gary McCormick

Here’s a special Science Term Throwback Thursday from January 14th 8 years ago!

Ernest W. Marshall talks about a common winter feature along considerable stretches of Great Lakes shorelines, the Icefoot, a narrow fringe of ice attached to the coast:

Air and water temperatures must be sufficiently low before an icefoot begins to form. The conditions favorable for icefoot formation are broad open shorelines gradually sloping below water level, and facing so that wind-blown spray is carried inland toward the shore to freeze. The character of growth of an icefoot differs during different periods of the winter. During the course of the winter the icefoot may suffer periods of denudation alternating with periods of accretion. The development of an icefoot can be held at one stage by the early freezing of fast ice offshore. An icefoot can be composed of any combination of frozen spray or lake water, snow accumulations, brash, stranded icefloes, and sand which is either thrown up on the icefoot by wave action or is blown out from the exposed beaches.

Observations of the icefoot along the shorelines of Lakes Superior and Erie indicated that the moderately steep portions of the shore were characterized by narrow terraces composed of frozen slush and brash thrown up by storm winds. The outer edge of this icefoot was often cusp-like in form, resulting from the mechanical and melting action of the waves. The inner portions of the cusps acted to concentrate the wave action, forming blowholes which threw spray back on the icefoot.

You can click to read more.

Gary took this photo at one of my favorite places, Agate Beach on Lake Superior in Grand Marais. In the distance is Grand Sable Dunes & the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. See more in Gary’s Grand Marais Michigan gallery including a shot of a staggeringly huge ice mound & view and purchase his work at Footsore Fotography.

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Leland Blue

via Leelanau.com

Leland Blue Stone by Cortney Brenner

Leland Blue Stone by Cortney Brenner

In last week’s post about an unidentified blue mineral discovered at the Adventure Mine on the Keweenaw Peninsula, I offered my personal theory that the color is due to the same reaction that created “Leland bluestones”. A couple people asked what the heck a Leland blue is, so here you go:

In the Glen Arbor Sun, Sandra Serra Bradshaw shares that Leland Bluestones were born over 100 years ago in the fires of the Leland Lake Superior Iron Company:

Between the years of 1870 to 1884, the Leland Lake Superior Iron Company operated an iron smelter north of the mouth of the river. They supplied the voracious furnace with ore from the Upper Peninsula. The charcoal they needed was made from local maple and beech timber that was produced in 14 beehive kilns that were kept near the smelting furnace. It produced up to an amazing 40 tons of iron per day. In 1884, the plant was sold to the Leland Lumber Co., which operated a sawmill on the site. Other sawmills and shingle mills operated in Leland during the years between 1885 through 1900.

Back then Leland was a smog-filled industrial town, the main industry of which was anchored by the iron company. The smelting industry failed because of large overhead costs and the lack of a good harbor in Leland. Interestingly, the remains of the industry, including heaps of slag, were dumped into the harbor and today, that has resulted in something as a precious collectible for many. As raw ore was heated, the desired iron ore was separated from various natural impurities. When those impurities cooled, it resulted in a stone-like slag. Hence the Leland Blue Stones were born!

The Leland Blue is a bit of a misleading title to this little man-made gem as it is the mix of blue glass with other chemicals — but this varying chemical medley can also cause the slag to appear in colors of purple, gray, or in shades of green. Today, people relish finding this slag material on the shores of Leland’s beaches. It is not only collectible as a stone, but also sought for as jewelry.

More in the Sun.

This sweet photo was taken by Cortney Brenner on the beach in Leland back in 2017. See more from Cortney on her Flickr!

PS: I promise no posts from Leelanau for at least the rest of the week!

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A New Blue at Adventure Mine

Blue Mineral at Adventure Mine

Blue Mineral at Adventure Mine

WWJ-Detroit shares that a bright blue mineral has been discovered at a mine on the Keweenaw Peninsula that so far has people perplexed:

The mysterious mineral was found on rock walls in the historic U.P. Adventure copper mine in Greenland Township, south of Lake Superior.

On Sunday, officials from the mine have posted pictures on Facebook of the mystery substance found on rock walls, but the bright blue material has not been positively identified.

Officials said they believe it to be a secondary mineral caused by a reaction with air and water. The mine operated from 1850 until 1920 and 11 million lbs. of native copper has been extracted.

Definitely visit the Adventure Mine website for information on their tours & the history of the mine.  In the Facebook post referenced, Adventure Mine said “This bright blue mineral has not been positively identified as of this post but it is a secondary mineral that is caused by a reaction with air and water. It was found on the 3rd level in a small stope.” A stope is an excavation in a mine working or quarry in the form of a step or notch & the comment thread has some very interesting ideas as to what the mineral could be.

My own personal pet theory based solely on how cool it would be is that this reaction is due to the same mineral that creates the unique iron ore slag known as Leland Blue

PS: After some discussion with Adventure Mine operators, I realize that I took my kids on a tour there 20 years ago. Super cool & a highlight of our visit to the awesome Keweenaw Peninsula – definitely put a trip to the copper-iest of Copper Country on your Michigan bucket list!

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Faerie Lights: Bioluminescent Oyster Mushrooms

Bioluminscent Oyster Mushrooms by Jeff Baurs

Bioluminescent Oyster Mushrooms by Jeff Baurs

It’s not every day that I learn something new about Michigan, but the fact that Michigan has mushrooms that produce their own illumination is a new one to me!! PlantSnap explains that Bitter Oyster Mushrooms (Panellus stipticus) are one of over 80 species of bioluminescent mushrooms:

The mushrooms use a class of molecules called luciferins, which paired with an enzyme and oxygen, release light. Panellus stipticus (also known as the bitter oyster) is one of the brightest-glowing examples of bioluminescent fungi. It is found throughout Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. These flat mushrooms grow on tree branches creating a mesmerizing effect as soon as the sun goes down. Foragers are able to find this variety growing around birch, oak, and beech trees.

The luciferins found in bioluminescent mushrooms are the same compound found in fireflies and underwater creatures.

They recommend that the best way to find them is by identifying them in the daytime, and you can head over to It’s Nature for a look at the bitter oyster mushroom.

Jeff took this photo a couple nights ago in southwest Michigan (Barry County). You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram for more great pics!

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The Weather & Fall Color

Mirror Lake in Autumn by Julie Chapa

Mirror Lake in Autumn by Julie Chapa

In their excellent article on The Science of Fall Color, the US Forest Service explains the role of the weather in the annual seasonal show:

The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions – lots of sugar and light – spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. Like the weather, soil moisture varies greatly from year to year. The countless combinations of these two highly variable factors assure that no two autumns can be exactly alike. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors. A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather, and warm sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.

Julie took this photo at a small lake near Fife Lake back in 2014. See more in her Michigan gallery & follow Julie Chapa Photography on Facebook.

TONS more fall color on Michigan in Pictures!

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As far as we know, July was the hottest

Fox Squirrels in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan by Corey Seeman

Fox Squirrels in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan by Corey Seeman

NPR reports that according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July was the hottest month ever recorded in human history:

“In this case, first place is the worst place to be,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement. “July is typically the world’s warmest month of the year, but July 2021 outdid itself as the hottest July and month ever recorded.”

Spinrad said that climate change has set the world on a “disturbing and disruptive path” and that this record was the latest step in that direction. Research has shown the warming climate is making heat waves, droughts and floods more frequent and intense.

According to NOAA, last month was the hottest July in 142 years of record-keeping.

The global combined land and ocean-surface temperature last month was 1.67 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees, the agency said. The previous record was set in 2016, and repeated in 2019 and 2020.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the land-surface temperature for July was 2.77 degrees hotter than average.

You can read more from NPR

Corey is definitely Michigan’s unofficial squirrel photography king. See a bunch more squirrels in his Project 365 2021 Gallery on Flickr & at the squirrel tag on Michigan in Pictures!

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Crepuscular rays over Sunday Lake

Crepuscular rays over Sunday Lake by Michigan Nut Photography

Crepuscular rays over Sunday Lake by Michigan Nut Photography

The Atmospheric Optics page on crepuscular rays says:

Sun rays, also called crepuscular rays, streaming through gaps in clouds are parallel columns of sunlit air separated by darker cloud shadowed regions.

The rays appear to diverge because of perspective effects, like the parallel furrows of freshly ploughed fields or a road wide at your feet yet apparently narrowing with distance.

Airborne dust, inorganic salts, organic aerosols, small water droplets and the air molecules themselves scatter the sunlight and make the rays visible.

John took this photo at Sunday Lake in Wakefield. Follow him on Facebook & view and purchase his work at michigannutphotography.com.

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La Chappelle: The incredible Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock by John Gagnon

Chapel Rock by John Gagnon

Atlas Obscura says that although there’s a whole lot to see in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, hikers should keep their eyes peeled for one feature in particular: Chapel Rock, once known as La Chappelle:

Composed of Cambrian age sandstone dating back approximately 500 million years, Chapel Rock is the result of the erosion caused by a proglacial lake somewhat confusingly referred to as “Nipissing Great Lakes.” This giant body of water consisted of separate basins joined by straits, and once occupied present-day Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Georgian Bay. Around 3,800 years ago, the high waters of Nipissing Great Lakes carved through the soft sandstone, resulting in today’s dramatic formation, which juts out into Lake Superior.

Although Chapel Rock’s stone is mostly beige, its base is a warm orange, thanks to mineral concentrations. The sandstone cliffs that comprise Pictured Rocks are full of iron, copper, manganese, and limonite, which impart red, orange, blue, green, brown, black, and white hues. Not long ago, a natural rock bridge spanned the area between Chapel Rock and the mainland. It collapsed in the 1940s, leaving the formation unconnected with the rest of the shore. Thankfully, the rest of the structure has remained intact and is protected from climbers by order of the Lakeshore Superintendent.

The rock isn’t the only thing that has proven to be remarkably durable. Charles Penny, a member of the Douglass Houghton expedition responsible for exploring Lake Superior’s southern shore, admiringly described a single pine tree that grew like a “spire” out of the sparse dirt covering the top of the outcropping. Till this day, the same resilient pine stands sentinel over Chapel Rock, connected to the mainland by its extensive root system.

More at Atlas Obscura & check out more Chapel Rock photos on Michigan in Pictures that include pictures of the pine tree’s astounding root system.

See more in John’s Pictured Rocks gallery on Flickr.

 

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Scientists now know what causes the northern lights!

Thanks by Julie

Thanks by Julie

NPR reports that scientists have finally confirmed the source of the Northern Lights:

An article published in the journal Nature Communications this week suggests that the natural light show starts when disturbances on the sun pull on Earth’s magnetic field. That creates cosmic undulations known as Alfvén waves that launch electrons at high speeds into Earth’s atmosphere where they create the aurora.

“It was sort of theorized that that’s where the energy exchange is occurring,” said Gregory Howes, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa. “But no one had ever come up with a definitive demonstration that the Alfvén waves actually accelerate these electrons under the appropriate conditions that you have in space above the aurora.”

The sun is volatile, and violent events there such as geomagnetic storms can echo out into the universe. In some cases, the sun’s disturbances are so strong that they yank on the Earth’s magnetic field like a rubber band, pulling it away from our planet.

But, like a taut rubber band when it’s released, the magnetic field snaps back, and the force of that recoil creates powerful ripples known as Alfvén waves about 80,000 miles from the ground. As those waves get closer to Earth, they move even faster thanks to the planet’s magnetic pull.

…”Think about surfing,” said Jim Schroeder, an assistant physics professor at Wheaton College and the article’s lead author. “In order to surf, you need to paddle up to the right speed for an ocean wave to pick you up and accelerate you, and we found that electrons were surfing. If they were moving with the right speed relative to the wave, they would get picked up and accelerated.”

When the electrons reach Earth’s thin upper atmosphere, they collide with nitrogen and oxygen molecules, sending them into an excited state. The excited electrons eventually calm down and release light, which is what we see as the aurora.

More at NPR.

Julie took this celebratory photo back in March. See more in her massive Michigan gallery on Flickr & keep your eyes on the skies!!

More Northern Lights on Michigan in Pictures.

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