Rainbow at the Soo Locks

rainbow-at-the-soo-locks

Rainbow at Soo Locks, photo by kdclarkfarm

Diane says that everyone was in awe at this rainbow apparently waiting its turn for the Soo Locks in late September.

View her photo background bigilicious and see more in her Freighters and the St. Clair River slideshow.

More rainbows and more Soo Locks on Michigan in Pictures.

 

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!

#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.

Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie Michigan

Sunset at the Soo Locks

Sunset | Soo Locks, photo by Camaeleo

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.

View Camaeleo’s photo bigger and see more in their Sault Ste. Marie slideshow.

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.

Quiet Opening Day at the Soo Locks in 2014

Coast Guard cutters pass through Soo Locks

Coast Guard cutters pass through Soo Locks, photo by Coast Guard News

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.

View Levi’s photo background bigtacular and see more at the Coast Guard News’ Soo Locks tag.

There’s more boats and more Sault Ste. Marie, and if you’re interested in the Icebreaker Mackinac and other icebreakers, Michigan in Pictures has that too!

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Soo Locks

Never before published photo of the Edmund Fitzgerald, taken only months before it was lost with all hands in Lake Superior. Remember, you saw if first on Flickr! My father-in-law took this shot. He told my wife that he wasn't taking a picture of the Big Fitz; he just wanted a photo of the locks, and this happened to be in the photo. Unfortunately, the negative is long gone and this photo was printed on some sort of rough-coated matte paper so that it could be mailed as a postcard. My father-in-law didn't realize until months after the sinking that he had a picture of this vessel. The photo was taken in August 1975; the Edmund Fitgerald sank in November of that year. It was, ironically, the sinking that made this ship famous. After it was built it was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, but other than that, it was just another anonymous working vessel plying the waters between Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Soo Locks, photo by bill.d.

Through Gordon Lightfoot’s song, the Edmund Fitzgerald has become an icon for the power of the Great Lakes. Nowhere can you see it better than Joseph Fulton’s video of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a fantastic piece of film-making that you need to see if you haven’t already.

What I suspect that a lot of people forget (because I know I do) is that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was just one of many ships plying the Great Lakes. About the photo above, Bill writes:

My father-in-law took this shot. He told my wife that he wasn’t taking a picture of the Big Fitz; he just wanted a photo of the locks, and this happened to be in the photo. Unfortunately, the negative is long gone and this photo was printed on some sort of rough-coated matte paper so that it could be mailed as a postcard.

My father-in-law didn’t realize until months after the sinking that he had a picture of this vessel.

The photo was taken in August 1975; the Edmund Fitzgerald sank November 10th of that year. It was, ironically, the sinking that made this ship famous. After it was built in 1958, until 1971, it was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, but other than that, it was just another anonymous working vessel plying the waters between Wisconsin and Michigan.

Check it out background big and see the back of the postcard. Visit the links below for more about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald:

More shipwrecks on Absolute Michigan and Michigan in Pictures.