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!

Bradley Fleet in “the Frog Pond”

Bradley Fleet in the Frog Pond

Layed-up in the Frog Pond, photo courtesy Presque Isle County Historical Museum

This would be where I would tell you the fascinating history of why the winter harbor at Rogers City was referred to as the Frog Pond, but I’m unable to find much except for that’s what everyone calls it. There’s one in Toledo too.

The Presque Isle County Historical Museum is located in the historic home of Carl D. Bradley, general manager of Michigan Limestone and subsidiary Calcite Transportation. About the photo, they write:

The Bradley fleet layed-up in the “frog pond” at Calcite in 1949. From left to right are the W. F. White, B. H. Taylor, John G. Munson, Carl D. Bradley, T. W. Robinson, and Calcite.

View it big as the Bradley and see more in their Bradley Transportation Fleet slideshow including this aerial shot of the Frog Pond.

Click for more about the Carl D Bradley which ultimately became one of Michigan’s most tragic wrecks.

 

Ice is Nice: Tracking Ice Cover on the Great Lakes

shoreline-ice-on-lake-michigan

Shoreline Ice, photo by Mark Swanson

Ice on Michigan’s Great Lakes has become something of a phenomenon in the last few years, attracting photographers and thousands more to see the ephemeral beauty created by wind, water, and freezing temperatures. But ice has other important purposes, as NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory page on Great Lakes Ice Cover explains:

Ice formation on the Great Lakes is a clear signal of winter. Looking back in time, the lakes were formed over several thousands of years as mile-thick layers of glacial ice advanced and retreated, scouring and sculpting the basin. The shape and drainage patterns of the basin were in a constant state of flux resulting from the ebb and flow of glacial meltwater coupled with the rebound of the underlying land as the massive ice sheets retreated.

Heavy ice cover can reduce the amount of evaporation from the Great Lakes in the winter, thus contributing to higher water levels.

In bays and other nearshore areas, ice forms a stable platform for winter recreational activity such as ice fishing. This stable ice also protects wetlands and the shoreline from erosion.

  • 94.7% ice coverage in 1979 is the maximum on record (data began in 1973)
  • 9.5% ice coverage in 2002 is the lowest on record
  • 11.5% ice coverage in 1998, a strong El Niño year
  • The extreme ice cover in 2014 (92.5%) and 2015 (88.8%) were the first consecutive high ice cover years since the late 1970s.

NOAA pegs the current ice cover at 9.9% and you can also watch an animation of the last 60 days of ice formation. You can check out satellite images of the Great Lakes for current ice cover and also this cool animation of Great Lakes ice cover from 1973 – 2016.

Mark took this photo a little over a week ago at Lincoln Township Park near Stevensville. With the warmer weather, there’s probably less. View his photo bigger and see more in his Michigan Winter slideshow.

50 Shades of Blue

50 Shades of Blue

50 Shades of Blue, photo by John Hill Photography

A simply gorgeous shot of Au Sable Point and the Au Sable Light Station in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

View this photo background big on Twitter and definitely follow John on Instagram!

Know Your Michigan Fish: Northern Pike (Esox lucius)

Michigan Northern Pike Esox lucius

Northern Pike (Esox lucius), photo by Isle Royale National Park

The Michigan DNR’s Northern Pike page has this to say about this apex predator of the Great Lakes and Michigan’s inland lakes:

As predators, northern pike can have significant impact on their prey species. As with muskies, pike lurk in the cover of vegetation in the lake’s clear, shallow, warm waters near shore, although they retreat somewhat deeper in midsummer. Pike consume large numbers of smaller fish – about 90 percent of their diet – but seem willing to supplement their diet with any living creature their huge jaws can surround, including frogs, crayfish, waterfowl, rodents, and other small mammals. Their preferred food size is approximately one third to one half the size of the pike itself.

Great Lakes pike spawn in the shallows in April or May, right after the ice leaves, and before muskies reproduce. As a result of their eating habits, young pike grow rapidly in both length and weight. Females become sexually mature at age three or four years, and males at two to three years. Beyond sexual maturity, pike continue to gain weight, although more slowly. Great Lakes pike have an average life span of 10 to 12 years.

Pike eggs and new hatchlings (which stay inactive, attached to vegetation for their first few days of life) fall prey in large numbers to larger pike, perch, minnows, waterfowl, water mammals, and even some insects. Larger pike have two primary enemies – lampreys, and man. Spawning adult northern pike, exposing themselves recklessly in the shallows, are vulnerable to bears, dogs, and other large carnivores.

Northern pike flesh excels in flavor, thus making them a doubly rewarding game fish. Since their skin has heavy pigmentation and an unappetizing mucous coating, most people skin them or scale them carefully.

This photo was one of Isle Royale National Park’s “Wildlife Wonders of the Week.” They noted that a five pound female pike will lay about 60,000 eggs. Two weeks later fertilized eggs hatch, hungry for microscopic morsels. Once to the fingerling stage, food scarcity may force them to eat their own siblings for nourishment.

View it bigger on Facebook and definitely follow their page for the latest from one of Michigan’s coolest parks!

More Michigan fish on Michigan in Pictures.

Line 5 and the Great Lakes

Mackinaw-City-and-Mackinac-Bridge

Mackinaw City and Mackinac Bridge, photo by Sandy Hansen Photography 

“There is a pipeline that‘s sitting at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. It was designed for a 50 year life and it’s been down there for 63 years. There’s a risk involved in this.”
-Mark Shriberg, National Wildlife Federation

In Line 5 puts Great Lakes at risk on Absolute Michigan via the University of Michigan (video below):

Up to 152 miles (245 km) of coastline in lakes Huron and Michigan could be fouled by a single oil spill at the straits, according to the simulations. When all 840 simulated spills are plotted on a map, a total of 720 miles (1,162 km) of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada are considered potentially vulnerable to spills that would require cleanup. Seven hundred twenty miles is roughly the distance from Detroit to Atlanta.

Areas at highest risk include Mackinac and Bois Blanc islands, as well as locations directly east and west of Mackinaw City. Communities also at risk include Beaver Island, Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan and other places along the lakes Huron-Michigan shoreline.

…”Until now, no one knew exactly how much shoreline was vulnerable to spills in the Straits of Mackinac,” said Schwab, a research scientist at the U-M Water Center. “These findings show that under the right conditions, a spill in the Straits of Mackinac could affect a significant amount of shoreline and open-water areas in either Lake Michigan or Lake Huron, or both, very quickly.”

View Sandy’s photo bigger, see more in her aerial slideshow, and follow her on at Sandy Hansen Photography on Facebook.

 

Failure of Poe Lock at the Soo Locks would be devastating

charles m. beeghly, poe lock, sault ste. marie, michigan

charles m. beeghly, poe lock, sault ste. marie, michigan, photo by twurdemann

via today’s Five Things you need to know about Michigan on Absolute Michigan comes a Detroit Free Press report on  the potentially dire consequences for the US & Michigan if the Soo Locks fail:

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report indicates a 6-month shutdown of the Poe Lock in Sault Ste. Marie, if one occurred, would plunge the nation into recession, closing factories and mines, halting auto and appliance production in the U.S. for most of a year and result in the loss of some 11 million jobs across the nation.

The report, obtained by the Free Press through the Freedom of Information Act, paints a grim picture of the outcome of any long-term shutdown of the Poe, the only one of the so-called Soo Locks able to handle the 1,000-foot-long vessels that each year move millions of tons of iron ore from mines in Minnesota and northern Michigan to steel mills dotting the lower Great Lakes and beyond.

….But what is also clear from the Homeland Security report is that while a longer-term shutdown would be catastrophic, even a shorter one could have a much wider impact than previously thought: If such a closure occurred at the Poe during the March 25-Jan. 15 shipping season, for instance, as much as 75% of the nation’s steel output could be halted within two to six weeks.

Read on for more, including a video of a ship going into the locks.

View twurdemann’s photo from Engineer’s Day (every June) bigger and see more in his Great Lakes Shipping slideshow.

More Soo Locks on Michigan in Pictures!