#TBT: Soo Ice Jam of 1953

Soo Ice Jam of 1953

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.

View this postcard shared by John Rodwan bigger on Facebook and see a lot more in the Northern Michigan Postcards group.

More about the Soo Locks and more #TBT aka Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures.

Icebreaking on the St Mary’s River is an international effort

Icebreaking on the St Marys River

Icebreaking on the St Mary’s River, photo by U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

Here’s an aerial shot of the 228-foot Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) SAMUEL RISLEY working in partnership with U.S. Coast Guard’s Sault Ste. Marie Sector on icebreaking operations in the St. Mary’s River last weekend. They write:

USCG Sector Sault Ste. Marie is also in high gear kicking off the 2015 Operation Taconite season, as ice continues to build daily across the Great Lakes. US Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers are conducting around the clock icebreaking operations to assist commercial vessel traffic in the connecting waterways of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.

Operation Taconite is the largest domestic icebreaking operation in the US. Over water shipping offers the only effective means of transporting the vast amounts of iron ore from the mines at the Head of the Lakes in Minnesota needed to meet the demands of steel mills in Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Operation Taconite is primarily responsible for ensuring the successful transport of this cargo amid the harsh winter conditions of the northern Great Lakes.

Air Station MH-65s routinely fly ice reconnaissance flights in support of the operation

The photo was taken by the crew of one of the Traverse City Coast Guard Air Station’s Dolphin helicopters. View it background bigtacular and click through for a shot of the USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw working to keep this vital shipping channel open.

There’s more winter wallpaper and more ships on Michigan in Pictures.

Sometimes, Mother Nature Wins

Cason J Calloway in Lake Superior Ice

Stuck in the ice, eastern Lake Superior, photo courtesy US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw

As of yesterday, no ships had passed through the Soo Locks due to the overwhelming mass of ice on the world’s biggest lake. That doesn’t stop them from trying and (in this case) failing. The Cason J. Callaway ended up locked in ice and had to be rescued by the US Coast Guard’s flagship icebreaker Mackinaw.

Soo Today reported yesterday:

Two freighters bound from Duluth, Minn. are battling their way through what a United States Coast Guard spokesperson called “brutal” and “extreme” ice conditions on Lake Superior to reach the Soo Locks.

The vessels, John P. Munson and Cason J. Callaway, are following the USCG Cutter Mackinaw but are making very slow progress.

Randy Elliott, vessel traffic manager with the USCG stationed in Soo Michigan, said Tuesday that the convoy left Duluth around the time the Soo locks opened for traffic on March 25. As of late yesterday, the southbound convoy was located about 40 kilometres south of Michipicoten Island, and were confronting ice three to three and a half feet thick with windrows six feet high in some places.

The three vessels opted not to use their normal route across the lake, and instead are following the north shore of Lake Superior, Elliott said.

No commercial ships, either north or southbound, have locked through since the official opening a week ago.

That also is not normal.

“Usually at this time of the year we would see 12 to 15 vessels north and southbound a day using the locks,” Elliott said.

Read on for more and definitely check out pasty.com’s photos by Callaway wheelsman, Keith Baker.

Thanks Shawn Malone of Lake Superior photo for the find and for the title! Get more on icebreaking on the the Great Lakes on Michigan in Pictures.

Icebreaking on the Great Lakes with USCG Bristol Bay

Shipping Lane

Shipping Lane, photo by rellet17

Winter 2014 has been a big challenge to keep up with for road crews and homeowners, and it’s a challenge that doesn’t end at the shoreline!

On Friday, Ross got a chance ride aboard the US Coast Guard Icebreaker Bristol Bay as it opened a path for shipping traffic on Lake Saint Clair. The captain told him the ice has only been this dense one other time in the past 30 years! The Coast Guard says:

The USCGC BRISTOL BAY is one of just two Bay-class cutters that work in conjunction with a special barge. BRISTOL BAY the second of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 140-foot icebreaking tugs. She is named after the body of water formed by the Alaskan peninsula which empties into the Bering Sea. BRISTOL BAY was built by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co. in 1978. She was commissioned in Detroit in 1979.

Designed by U.S. Coast Guard engineers, the BRISTOL BAY’s primary responsibility is opening and maintaining icebound shipping lanes in the Great Lakes. Bay-class tugs are designed to continuously break at least 20 inches of hard, freshwater ice. The ships can break more than 3 feet of ice by backing and ramming. The Bay tugs have a special hull air lubrication system that helps extract the ship from thick ice and improves ice breaking ability at slower speeds.

View Ross’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his ice breaking slideshow.

PS: A few weeks ago I came across this video of more Great Lakes icebreaking action, showing the Icebreaker Mackinaw and others clearing a path from Sault Ste Marie down the St Marys River that you might enjoy. It was shot from the wheelhouse of the CSL Assiniboine.

There’s more ice and more winter wallpaper to be found on Michigan in Pictures!