Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Lake Superior mid winter update
On Monday afternoon it was 46F(8C) in Minneapolis. It was actually up to 36F(2C) when we left the Porkies Monday morning. This morning it is -15F(-26C), a swing of 61 degrees F (28C) in the downward direction. We live in an interesting part of the planet for sure; if you don't like the weather just wait a couple hours. As far as my favorite lake is concerned, there are large ice packs floating around at the whim of the wind direction. The same south wind that brought the warm air on Monday also blew most of the ice on the shores of the Porcupine mountains out into the lake, leaving only the few stray ice floes in the top picture. When the wind changes it will look like the photo below.
Chequamagon Bay near Ashland, WI is frozen to the point that cars, trucks, and fish houses are all out on the ice chasing the elusive trout and salmon. RangerMark said that the ferry boat from Bayfield, WI to Madeline Island is done for the season and that the ice boat(s) are operating until the lake is frozen solid enough for the ice road to be used. People need to get to school and work from the island and the wind sled is the only option.
At the head of the lake in Dululth the last ship of the season, the Mesabi Miner, came into port for winter layup on 22 January. It had just cleared the Lift Bridge when it got stuck in the ice, according the the Duluth Shipping News. You can read about and watch video of the tug Kentucky and Coast Guard cutter Alder getting the Mesabi Miner free from the ice on the DSN link above. When we crossed the Blatnik Bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota we noticed at least a dozen ships in layup including at least five thousand footers. One of them, the Walter J. McCarthy Jr, had a mishap where it hit some underground object and punctured the hull in the engine room. The crew shut the watertight doors, evacuated, and the stern sank in 20' of water. My friend and former co-worker, now a Wisconsin expat living in Georgetown, Texas sent me a video of the local Duluth TV station reporting on the mishap. You gotta love the local TV news.
With another week or so of cold weather we will be able to walk or snowshoe out to the mainland sea caves to check out the ice sculptures. This can be a treacherous area to paddle in the summer and is the area where the two most recent kayak deaths have occurred. Once the ice is thick enough its a fairly pleasant mile walk with some excellent ice formations in the caves. When the seasons change the lake changes right along with them. I'm already starting to think about spring.