#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.

#TBT – Ice Caves of 2015

Icicles on cave - Grand Island Ice Curtains on Lake Superior - Munising, Michigan

Icicles on cave – Grand Island Ice Curtains, photo by Craig

As the mercury climbs and some crazy people (such as yours truly) start grumbling about the high temps, it’s probably a good time to take a look back at last winter’s spectacular ice caves.

Aubrieta Hope shared the story of her trip with Craig and two other photographers (Neil Weaver & John McCormick) to check out the Grand Island ice curtains. All four are Michigan in Pictures regulars – click to check out In Search of Superior Crystal on the Pure Michigan Blog. It has a bunch of photos and begins:

In the heart of winter, when the drifts are as high as houses and snow-dusted pines line the roads, photographers travel to the Upper Peninsula in search of crystal. Not antique-store crystal, but Superior crystal, the kind that occurs when the north wind turns every drop of open water into something sparkling and new. During the coldest months, the great lake freezes, heaves and breaks, forming mountains of crystal rocks, so tall they seem like permanent landforms. Icebergs and volcanoes rise in the harbors and bays, reflecting all the colors of the sky. Waterfalls slow from a rush to a trickle, building columns that bubble and sing. And, on the sandstone cliffs, springs that flow unseen in the summer months create glittering ice curtains.

During winter’s last stand, at the very beginning of March, I headed north to find Superior crystal. My trip was inspired by winter photographs of the U.P. that I’d viewed online. I’d seen dramatic images of enormous frozen waterfalls, great Superior ice fields, and shining rivers wreathed in morning mist. I wanted to experience and photograph all those scenes, but more than anything, I wanted to see the legendary ice curtains of Grand Island in Munising Bay. These immense, aqua blue ice curtains form when cold temperatures freeze the springs that seep from the island’s rocky cliffs. It can be tricky to get to the ice curtains, though. The island is not accessible every winter because the currents are strong in the bay, preventing adequate ice buildup. During last year’s historically cold winter, the bay froze sufficiently to allow foot traffic. For awhile it looked like Grand Island would not be accessible this year, but February’s arctic blast arrived just in time.

View Craig’s photo bigger and see & purchase more in the Grand Island Ice Curtains – Munising gallery on Craig’s website.

PS: The Grand Island National Recreation Area is located just off the coast of the UP in Munising and is an amazing place, complete with mountain bike trails!

PPS: More ice caves on Michigan in Pictures too!

PPPS: I really am a fan of the PS. If you are too, please PS in the comments!

#TBT: Atop Miners Castle

Atop Miners Castle

Atop Miners Castle, photo by Roger Dinda

On April 13, 2006 one of the most recognizable rock formations in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Miners Castle collapsed. The Lakeshore explains:

On Thursday morning, April 13, 2006, the northeast turret of Miners Castle collapsed. One turret remains on Miners Castle, the best-known feature of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The collapse was reported via cell phone by fisherman in the area, according to chief ranger Larry Hach. Most of the rock fell north and into Lake Superior, and there were no injuries. The lower overlook platform near Miners Castle appears to be unaffected.

While the rockfall at Miners Castle on April 13 was startling, such events are not rare along the Pictured Rocks escarpment. At least five major falls have occurred over the past dozen years: 1) two different portions of Grand Portal Point, 2) the eastern side of Indian Head just east of Grand Portal Point, 3) Miners Falls just below the (now modified) viewing platform, and 4) beneath the lip of Munising Falls (along the former trail that went behind the cascade).

All the rockfalls involved the same rock unit, the Miners Castle Member of the Munising Formation. Rock units are named for places where they were first technically described. The Miners Castle Member consists of crumbly cross-bedded sandstone that is poorly cemented by secondary quartz, according to U.S. Geological Survey Research Ecologist Walter Loope.

Rockfalls along the cliffs typically occur in the spring and fall due to freezing and thawing action of Mother Nature.

Joel says that this photo was taken Roger Dinda in 1961 or ’62 “…before Pictured Rocks was a National Lakeshore, before Miners Castle lost its second turret, before they put up the boardwalks and railings. In this photo I’m just as tense as I look. I am deathly afraid of heights and this was (still is) about the scariest place I’ve ever been.”

View his photo background big more in his Lake Superior slideshow.

There’s more Throwback Thursdays, more Miners Castle & more from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Michigan in Pictures!

#TBT: Apple Island in Orchard Lake

Apple Island

Apple Island Aerial, photo via MSU Michigan History Student Publication

I was fascinated with the Farmer’s Almanac weather history tool this morning, so I went looking for notable Michigan happenings on June 18th…

Wikipedia’s Apple Island entry says that this 35-acre island was formed during the region’s last ice age (10,000 to 12,000 years ago) and lies in the middle of Orchard Lake. The West Bloomfield Historical Society has a nice article on Apple Island that says (in part):

Apple Island’s first admirers were Stone-Age Indians, who may have discovered it as early as 2,000 years ago. They were probably drawn to the site for its unique combination of land- and water-based resources, and the fact that their personal security was also enhanced on an island. It is not known exactly which Native Americans frequented Apple Island over the centuries before white settlement, but each group left clues to its way of life, including those which were raising crops at the time of Carpenter’s 1817 survey. In fact, the entire West Bloomfield lakes area has yielded many beautiful hammerstones, chert spearheads and birdstones – finely polished pieces of slate resembling stylized birds – left by their Native American owners long ago.

The treaty of November 17, 1807, negotiated with the Odawa, Ojibwe, Wyandot, and Potawatomi, ceded a tract of land comprising roughly the southeast quarter of the lower peninsula of Michigan and a small section of Ohio to the United States government. In time this land was surveyed, subdivided and offered for sale. Early settlers in what would become West Bloomfield Township noted that Native Americans visited the island often. In their language they reportedly referred to the area as “apple place” – a name which evidently stuck.

Read on for much more including the possibility that Chief Okemos was born on the island, its first purchase on June 18, 1827 by James Galloway and its current status as the Marjorie Ward Strong Woodland Sanctuary. Definitely check out Michigan History at MSU’s West Bloomfield – Apple Island feature for more photos & info and some really cool hand-drawn maps from the early 1900s.

The source of the “apple place” name is from Dr. Samuel M. Leggett’s epic poem The Legend of Me-nah-sa-gor-ning first circulated in 1909.

More Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures!

#TBT “Shift Change” – Mackinac Bridge construction, 1956

Shift Change at Mackinac Bridge

“Shift Change” – Mackinac Bridge construction, 1956, photo by otisourcat

What’s your commute looking like today? Mightymac.org has a great account of building the Mackinac Bridge, a process that began on May 7, 1954 and was completed November 1, 1957. It begins:

Construction of the Mackinac Bridge began with the construction of the pillars. Caissons were constructed, floated into position and sunk to provide the footings for the two immense towers which would suspend the center span of the bridge. Once the caissons were in place, creeper derricks were added, which raised materials to erect the towers and continued to climb higher.

The Mackinac Bridge roadway truss sections were assembled in sections and floated into position to be raised into place.

Constructing the Mackinac Bridge actually went on into 1958 and took 48 months, 3,500 workers, 895,000 blueprints & structural drawings, 71,300 tons of structural steel, 931,000 tons of concrete, 42,000 miles of cable wire, 4,851,700 steel rivets, 1,016,600 steel bolts and 99,800,000 dollars. There were 350 engineers and another 7,500 men & women worked at quarries, shops, mills and other locations.

When completed, the Mackinac Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and it is currently the longest suspension bridge in North & South America and the third longest suspension bridge in the world.

Read on for lots more including excellent photos of the process and also see these photos of construction of the Mackinac Bridge from the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

otisourcat writes: This is a color slide, but the aged Ektachrome color is so wonky, that the image is much clearer in B&W. View the photo bigger and see more Mackinac shots right here.

There’s lots more Mackinac Bridge photos & info and lots more Throw Back Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT Offseason at the Pontiac Silverdome

Pontiac Silverdome

Pontiac Silverdome, photo by Mathew Davey

With the departure of some key players including Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Reggie Bush and addition of new faces including Ravens stalwart Haloti Ngata, the Lions have had a fairly eventful offseason. One place that not much is happening is the Lions’ former home, the massive and now domeless Pontiac Silverdome.

Stadiums of Pro Football’s page on the Pontiac Silverdome says that this modern-day ruin was designed by O’Dell/Hewlett & Luckenbach and built at a cost of $55 million:

Home of the Detroit Lions for more than 25 years, the Silverdome was one of the largest stadiums in the NFL. Prior to moving into the Silverdome, the Detroit Lions had played at Tiger Stadium since 1938, that was also the home of the Detroit Tigers (MLB). Tiger Stadium was primarily a baseball stadium, but served as the home to the Lions for more than 30 years. In the late 1960s, the team wanted a new football only stadium. After several bonds were passed allowing the team to build a stadium, the Lions bought land in nearby Pontiac, MI. Because of the area’s cold winter weather, the team decided to build a domed stadium. Construction on the stadium, named the Pontiac Silverdome, began on September 19, 1973 and was completed in 23 months.

Opening day for the Lions at the Silverdome was on October 6, 1975. The Silverdome became the largest stadium in the NFL with a capacity of 80,311. Three tiers of blue seats circled the entire Astroturf playing field. The roof at the Silverdome consisted of Teflon-coated fiberglass panels. In 1985 after a heavy snowstorm the roof was structurally damaged. However over the next several months a new canvas and steel-girder reinforced roof was added to prevent the problem from occurring again. The Silverdome had several amenities that included 93 executive suites and a club restaurant. Other than hosting football games, the Silverdome hosted many other events including tractor pulls, soccer and basketball games, and concerts. The first Super Bowl played in a northern city, Super Bowl XVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, was played at the Silverdome. In the mid 1990s, the Lions became dissatisfied with the Silverdome. By 1997, bonds were passed allowing construction of a new domed stadium in downtown Detroit. The Lions played their final game at the Silverdome on January 6, 2002. The team moved into Ford Field in August 2002.

The Oakland Press has 89 historical photos of the Silverdome including a couple with Barry Sanders. If you want to go get all depressed instead, head over to Curbed Detroit for the saga of the godawful mess the Silverdome has become.

Matthew took this photo in December of 2014. Click to view it big as the Silverdome!

More Detroit Lions on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT Detroit Police Radio Prowl Car

Detroit Police Radio Prowl Car
Detroit Police Radio Prowl Car, photo by Ronnie

I think the guy on the right is replaced by a computer in the 2015 version. About the photo, Ronnie writes:

Before the World War II started in Europe, 1939 was expected to be an exceptional year. America was filled with optimism, and with the Great Depression winding down, the nation was looking forward to what the coming decade of the 1940s would bring. Even the theme of the World’s Fair in New York was billed as “the world of tomorrow,” especially when it came to consumer and industrial electronics. However, for the Detroit Police Department one of the most important technological advancements in the world of law enforcement had become a reality.

Many electronics experts at the turn of the 1920s, said it would take another five decades before you would see two-way radios available for use in motor vehicles. While this philosophy was taken as gospel; several Amateur Radio operators pushed the envelope of experimentation to it’s zenith in their basements, and workshops across America. The fruits of their labor came to the forefront in the mid-to-late 1930s, which proved that two-way radio technology was viable for use by police officers in the field.

Earlier attempts at using two-way radio communications in the Motor City in 1934 had several drawbacks. The biggest was the cost, which was around $700 to equip each vehicle with the very large, and bulky equipment that took up the entire back seat and trunk of the patrol car. Not only did it take up a lot of space, but it really added a lot of weight that was hard on the vehicles’ suspension system.

Read on for more and to see the picture bigger and definitely check out Ronnie’s History photos for 100+ more photos from Michigan’s past with all kinds of great details!

More #TBT and more Michigan history on Michigan in Pictures.

#TBT Fortress of Solitude Edition at the Grand Island Ice Caves

Grand Island Ice Cave

Grand Island ice cave, Winter 2012/13, photo by Ash W Photography

A cool site that really gives you to tools to have a lot of fun in the Upper Peninsula is Things to Do in the U.P. #64 is visiting the Grand Island Ice Caves. After providing very detailed tips & information about how to get to these spectacular formations on Lake Superior off Munising, Brian Marticcui writes (in part):

For an intimate look at nature’s awesome power, sidle up to one of the columns and peer into its core. Expecting a solid tower of frozen water? Not a chance. These columns, especially the newer and/or sun-exposed ones, are actually made up of tiny beads and icicle-like formations separated by vertical channels that allow water to pass through them. It’s one of those mind-numbingly complex natural things that’s simultaneously random and orderly – kind of like a geode, but mostly frozen and not quite as colorful.

Inside, things are a bit more stable – and a whole lot more interesting, if that’s possible. For starters, many of the “entrances” to the caves are little more than elevated holes between solid ice columns. Depending on how the caves have set during the weeks leading up to your visit, you may have to scramble up a mound and squeeze yourself through an opening to actually gain access. (Clip-on crampons might be a good idea.)

Once you get in, be careful, both for your own physical safety and for the integrity of the caves themselves. The floors are often mirror-smooth, making regular walking a major challenge. Meanwhile, the ceilings can be low and/or spiky, and some of the most intricate formations – the fuzzy, mold-like bits of “shaved” ice that project from the bare rock of the walls and ceilings – are extremely fragile. Don’t be the guy or girl who ruins a particularly awesome formation for everyone else – those things don’t reform in their original states.

Since the caves’ outer walls aren’t comprised of a single, solid curtain, and blockages abound, you’ll have to enter and exit several times to get the full measure of their interior spaces. Be careful each time you do; in particular, don’t lean on any dubious-looking columns. Ice is heavy, and you’ll probably see the chilling remains of spectacular collapses. You don’t want to be under an unsafe formation when it goes.

Read on for much more and also follow Jesse’s Things to Do in the U.P. on Facebook.

Ash took this shot at Grand Island’s ice caves a couple of years ago. View it bigger on Facebook and see more of her work in her Upper Peninsula of Michigan gallery at ashwphotography.com.

PS: If you’re in the Marquette area, Ash be displaying February 17 through the end of March at Sweet Water Cafe in Marquette from Feb 17th to the end of March, just a few doors down from Zero Degrees Artist Cooperative where she has her work.

PPS: For a little discussion on current conditions on the crossing to Grand Island, see this thread on Facebook, and before you go be sure to talk to someone who knows something about it. Feel welcome to use that advice for anything that’s possibly dangerous that you know little about.

#TBT The Ice Caves of Leelanau from Ken Scott

Ken Scott Ice Cave

Lake Michigan … crystal cave II, photo by Ken Scott Photography

“My creative eye is always on. It doesn’t get bored. A lot of people get stuck on seeing things only one way, like the wide view or closeup view … but there’s everything in between. Boredom would come when you’re getting stuck in seeing things only one way. You just have to shift it a little bit and it can open up a whole other world.”
~Ken Scott

Kudos to Michigan in Pictures regular Ken Scott, whose photography of last winter’s ice caves on Lake Michigan is featured in the Huffington Post today. They write:

Scott’s documentation of the ice caves last year on Facebook drew likes, attention and, eventually, the book deal. In Ice Caves of Leelanau, he shows numerous views of the caves, blue ice, volcano ice, pancake ice, the large sheet of anchor ice along the shore, and the rounded and smoothed chunks of ice known as ice balls. Meteorologist Ernie Ostuno captioned Scott’s photographs for the book, and nature writer Jerry Dennis introduced them:

The caves were the surprising thing. Many of us had seen similar structures during other winters, but never many of them, and never this large. These were big enough to stand in — for a dozen people to stand in — and as elaborate as caves in limestone. They were domes and keyholes and grottos. Wave spray and intermittent thawing and freezing had embellished them with columns and pillars. Their surfaces were so smooth they gleamed in sunlight, and from their ceilings dripped hundreds of daggers of clear ice, like crystal stalactites.

George Leshkevich, a researcher with the North American Ocean Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, noted that last winter was particularly severe for the Great Lakes, resulting in unique conditions where ice reached peak thickness two separate times in the season.

Different kinds of ice formations occur because of a confluence of reasons, Leshkevich explained, including meteorological conditions, the physical location and wave action, so they’re hard to predict and will vary widely along the shore.

Click through for more great photos. You can check out a short video or a long one from this particular formation, and definitely get a copy of Ice Caves of Leelanau if you can!

PS: I hope all this ice caveyness isn’t bothering you – I’m so happy to see Michigan getting some wintertime love.

Woodland Hipsters

Woodland Hipsters

I’m a Lumberjack: 1899, photo courtesy Shorpy.com

While you might feel like you saw these stylish gents at the coffee shop the other day, Dave shares that the hipster look is timeless: Upper Michigan circa 1899. “The loggers.” 8×10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company.

View the photo background bigtacular and see TONS more incredible vintage photos (lots from Michigan) at Shorpy.com. You can also get prints of this and any photo they have.