Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Whitefish Point, MI

It feels like a journey to Land's End.

Probably because it is. Much like our trip out to Cape Flattery, WA two years ago.

The shipwreck museum (left) is part of a campus that includes a lighthouse - a common sight in Michigan.

Michigan's lighthouse locations.
This area is the final resting place for over 800 of the Great Lakes' 6,000 shipwrecks for three primary reasons 1) storms 2) commercial traffic congestion and 3) poor visibility.

The best known shipwreck in our time is the Edmund Fitzgerald, lost in November 1975 seventeen miles from Whitefish Point in over 500 feet of water.

A large exhibit honors her 29 lost crewmen.

The jewel in the exhibit's crown is the Fitzgerald's bell that was recovered from 535 feet.

The story of the bell retrieval is fascinating in itself. Due to the depth of the wreckage, it could only be accessed when this suit - capable of submersion up to 1,200 feet - was developed.

The bell was surgically removed and replaced with a new bell inscribed with the lost crew's names in 1995.

A definitive cause of the tragedy has never been determined. Yes, there was a storm that November night, but nothing the experienced captain hadn't seen before in his long Great Lakes career. No distress signal was ever sent.

Of course, Gordon Lightfoot's voice has been in my head (just like back in the 70's when the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald played continuously on the radio). John told me years later that the song was about an actual tragedy that had just occurred. I had no idea.

Numerous other shipwrecks are detailed, all offering exquisite models, narratives, and artifacts.

Also on display is this 9-foot Fresnel lens.

Lake Superior's first lighthouse began operating in 1849. The building, grounds, and former residence have all been lovingly preserved.

Also on campus is also a building dedicated to the heroic work of the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse station. From 1871 - 1889 for example, 6,735 people were rescued!

The beach is lovely and is shared with the Seney Wildlife Refuge. Each year about 25,000 raptors migrate through here.

Everyone appeared to enjoy the day.

Afterwards, I was ready to sample the local favorite - fish and chips. The whitefish was plucked from the lake this very morning.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

It's difficult to choose just a few photos from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The dramatic scenery, alight with the late afternoon sun, is a camera’s dream.

This long stretch of sandstone cliffs along Lake Superior towers some 50- 200 feet above. The cliff faces are massive canvases filled with nature’s colors and textures. The National Park Service (that is, We the People) protects 73,000 acres of this awesome coastline.

Should you find yourself in this part of the world, I recommend the sunset cruise that leaves from Munising, MI. I monitored the forecast closely that day before buying the ticket. After an overcast morning, it began to look like a perfect evening for it.

 And it was!

"Save your camera batteries," the captain tells us at this point.  "There is much more to come".

He was right.

The vibrant colors on display come from seeping groundwater composed of iron, copper, and other minerals.

We pass the Grand Island Lighthouse.

Two-and-a-half hours in length, the boat travels slowly among the cliffs, often getting quite close. At times, the water near the rocks are only 2 feet deep (as in the arch below) so you really want an experienced navigator at the helm!

One can't help but think of Lake Superior's reputation as the graveyard for ships. And the shoals between here and Whitefish Point have been the undoing of more ships than any others.

At one point, we pull into a small sea cave at Chapel Rock. I still don’t know how the captain managed to wedge us in there (and get us out). It was intense!

We are much closer to the walls than this photo conveys. Like rocking in a giant womb!

When we back out, the captain asks “Have you ever done anything like that before?” Nervous chuckles, to which he responded, “Neither have I”!

We passed a rookery of cormorants

and more miles of vivid sculptures.

Almost dark, we reverse course for the harbor.

And return, minds officially blown. 

Thanks to Nina at Wheeling It for recommending Pictured Rocks Cruises! Speaking of Nina, I have to share this magnificent shot she captured on the same cruise weeks earlier.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

I leave the Lake Superior region soon, but I've enjoyed every bit of it.
From the small towns

to the forests

the many waterfalls

the shoreline (where you can see all the way to Canada)

the dunes

the wetlands

and the cliffs.

What a sensational trip this has been!

(Not that it's over). 

Stay Tuned!