When the Gales of November Came Early – 42 Years Ago (Repost)

Every November 10, I reblog my post on the Edmund Fitzgerald. 42 years seems like a long time to most of us, but to the families of the crew lost, it must seem like yesterday.
 
Ever since I moved to Michigan, and especially since I have now been to Whitefish Point and seen the bell and the other ephemera at the Shipwreck Museum, it is even more poignant.
 
I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on the story. It would be especially interesting to hear your memories.

If you’re reading this in email, Twitter or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

 

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Comment” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about. Be sure to “subscribe” to my blog. You will be automatically notified of each new post.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

When the Gales of November Came Early – 42 Years Ago

If you’re reading this in email, Twitter or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

  

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

 

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

 

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

 

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

 

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about. Be sure to “subscribe” to my blog. You will be automatically notified of each new post.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

WIDMSV – The Fourth of July – Keweenaw Style

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

There’s something special about a holiday in a smaller town. It’s especially nice when it’s Independence Day and the weather is sunny and clear. We spent the day in Copper Harbor and the evening at the Eagle River Inn. It was so much fun.

We started the day going for breakfast in Copper Harbor. The place we had intended to eat wasn’t opening for breakfast that day, so we went to another restaurant, The Tamarack Inn. The service was spotty (which is somewhat understandable on a holiday), but we could tell they were trying to please. I had the fritter, French toast. AWESOME! Didn’t think I’d have to eat again for a week, though. We watched the remainder of the parade (which, sadly, we missed most of). What we did see and hear was the fire department with their engines all decked out with flags and bunting, people on bikes, people walking down the street all dressed up in red, white and blue, and others with their dogs in costume. It was a hoot! How, clearly, Americana is that?

 

 

From there, we drove up to the spot where US 41 starts! US 41 is a highway that has been nearby for a large part of my life. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Not far from there is  where US 41 becomes the ‘famous’ Tamiami (Tampa to Miami) Trail. It also runs through Georgia very near where Jim and I lived for so many years. As you can see from the photo, it runs from the very tip of the Keweenaw all the way to Miami, Florida.

We also got a wonderful surprise while we were taking photos of the sign. A male American Redstart was singing very close by. Before we knew it, he popped into view. Right after that, a Northern Parula started calling from just across the road. We waited and, sure enough, he flew right overhead and continued singing. I guess it’s never too late to look for ‘love’ in the Keweenaw.

 

From there, we headed back south (well, honestly, there isn’t much further north we could go without being in Lake Superior). We stopped at an outlook where the Eagle River flows into the Lake. Such a beautiful spot!

 

There were some really gorgeous flowers growing right by the river. I just had to take a photo. Then we walked out onto the rocks and saw some spectacular lake views.

 

  

Walking back up to the car, we saw this male American Redstart singing away. He was right over head and didn’t move when I focused my camera on him.

 

Then we headed to Studio 41 (http://www.studio41copper.com ).

 

What a fabulous place! It was hard not to buy everything in the shop – well, except for the price tags. Thing is, they represent several local artists as well as the works of the owners.

One of the items we bought was this gorgeous copper bracelet. The photo really doesn’t do it justice, and my almost constant wearing has dulled the shine to a lovely patina.

Another purchase are these fabulous maple leaves! They have these sculptures in many sizes, but this spray is just perfect for the location on one of our smaller living room walls.

 

After that, it was off to The Berry Patch once again. We enjoyed our ice cream so much the day before, we just had to go back. Of course, there’s something intrinsically American about ice cream on the 4th of July. In honor of George Washington (well, not REALLY), I had the tart cherry sundae. What a treat! The sweet, smooth, velvety vanilla ice cream with the tart cherry preserves… HEAVENLY! And, here, I’d thought I wouldn’t have room after breakfast. I guess it must have been all that walking in the fresh air.

 

We took the drive along the Lake Superior shoreline. This is such a gorgeous drive. The day was clear and, once again, the lake was flat and calm. I would love to have the time to paint all the beautiful views.

We stopped along the way at yet another lighthouse. This was in Eagle Harbor. They had built an observation deck with these informational plaques.  I thought they were very interesting.

 

 

Just where the road curls away from the shoreline you come to The Jam Pot (http://www.societystjohn.com/store/ ). They are a Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine rite. The monastery bakes amazing breads, cakes and cookies, but we were there for the jam. What jam it is! They have so many varieties that it is virtually impossible to list them all, but we made sure that we bought bilberry and thimbleberry. They also have a full line of sugar-free jam.

  

Right next to The Jam Pot is Jacob’s Creek Falls. It’s so nice to find such a pretty waterfall so easily accessible. Even though it had been a drier than usual summer, the falls had plenty of water and it was so nice to enjoy the cool air and listen to the sound of falling water on rocks.

 

Once back at the Eagle River Inn (http://www.eagleriverinn.com/ ) we dropped off our purchases and headed down for the barbecue. That smoker that they built sure puts out some delicious que! A great pulled pork sandwich and a beer? That says Independence Day to me! We headed out to the beach to stand in the water and enjoy the company of new friends. There were a couple with their parents from Minnesota there. They also had two of the funniest, most friendly dogs (a Weimaraner and a German Shorthaired Pointer). We had a grand time visiting with both humans and canines.

A group of children came down the beach with their own version of a Lakes freighter. Interestingly enough, there was the life-sized version out on the lake at the same time.

We were really enjoying our evening waiting for the band to set up and the fireworks that would begin around 11 p.m. That was until a big storm blew up! There was a small boat that had come to anchor off the Inn to enjoy the band and the fireworks, but he had to head off in a hurry to beat the oncoming rain and wind. Mother Nature had her own fireworks in store for us! I thought the tent that had been set up for the band was going to end up in Wisconsin, but some brave souls held on until the storm eventually passed. By this time, we were up in our room and had decided to call it a night. We figured that they’d have to wait until another night for the fireworks and we were leaving in the morning.

 

We should have had more faith in the hardiness of the partiers. Sure enough, around midnight, the storm had cleared out and the fireworks were set up. The band had not stayed, but they had radio so the party continued and the fireworks went off. We really had an excellent view from our room as we faced the beach.

I was a little sad that we weren’t staying longer in the Keweenaw. I know that we will definitely come back. We will absolutely make reservations at The Eagle River Inn, and – this time – we’ll be able to bring our “kids!” One thing I can pretty well assure you of, is that we won’t be doing our travel to the Keweenaw in the winter. We saw this marker on our way south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Next: Escanaba (In Da Moonlight?) and Kipling

 

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WIDMSV – Eagle River Inn; Brockway Mountain Drive; Visiting an Old Friend’s Family

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

We reached the upper parts of the Keweenaw Peninsula expecting cooler weather. Unfortunately, the ‘weather gods’ didn’t get the memo. It was in the mid-90s! Again, it’s not SUPPOSED to be that hot in the Keweenaw. For the most part, they don’t have air-conditioning. They usually don’t need it. Phew!

Eagle River Inn (Beach side)
Photo from their Website

Representative Room
Eagle River Inn

We checked into our room at the Eagle River Inn (which was so clean and newly refurbished, we could still smell the fresh paint). The Eagle River Inn has been a labor of love for Mike and Marc (the proprietors). They have spent every penny they could come up with on fixing up this wonderful inn which is only steps away from one of the prettiest, most accessible beaches in the Keweenaw. Their attention to detail is amazing. They have turned this location into a comfortable, friendly, destination inn that we will look forward to visiting over and over again.

One of our “neighbors”

 

Did I mention that the Eagle River Inn is DOG FRIENDLY??!!!! They are! I believe that the future of inn-keeping is in pet-friendly accommodations. More and more, people consider their pets integral parts of the family. The idea of leaving a family member behind in a kennel or alone at home is troubling. A key to enjoying a family vacation is for the WHOLE family to enjoy the time together. I really have to commend The Eagle River Inn for being so forward thinking.

 

It was far more comfortable driving in the car – with air-conditioning –so we decided that the Brockway Mountain Drive sounded like a good idea. The drive is a beautifully scenic road that runs from just north of Eagle River up to Copper Harbor. The views winding up the road are just beautiful. There are views of Lake Superior

 

Inland lakes

 

 Valleys

 

 Rock outcroppings

 

I have read that there were plan to put a cell tower on Brockway Mountain. (Okay, y’all, this wouldn’t be considered a “mountain” in the south – well, except maybe Florida. In Michigan, however, this is surely a “mountain” as the glaciers really scraped most of the state flat.) It is the highest point around and I understand the need for communications, but I certainly hope that they figure something else out that won’t mar the beauty of this amazingly pristine area.

 

Wild Berry
(World’s Best Ice Cream!)

As we reached the end of the road, we found ourselves just a little ways from the Wild Berry. I had found out that one of my high school classmates had grown up in Copper Harbor, Michigan. She and her family (the Nousiainens) had owned and run the Wild Berry Ice Cream store. Her brother, George (who had been a few years ahead of us in school), had moved back to Copper Harbor and was still running the store.

 

ICE CREAM!!!!! What a marvelous idea! It was especially welcome in this heat. We would have loved to visit more with George and his wife, but we weren’t the only ones thinking that ice cream sounded like a good idea. The place was packed! We did, however, get the opportunity to treat ourselves to sundaes made with local fruit and some of the best, smoothest, most delicious ice cream I’ve ever eaten. (In retrospect, I wonder if the ice cream was really as fabulous as I remember or if it was just because it was so very welcome.)

Thimbleberry

 

I opted for thimbleberry. A thimbleberry is related to raspberries. It’s a delicious, tart fruit with LOTS (and I do mean to capitalize that) of seeds! It’s absolutely delicious, but the pips… I tend to think they’re worth dealing with.

 

Bilberry

Jim opted for bilberry. Bilberries are related to what we call blueberries. In fact, in Europe, these are what they know as blueberries. This special variety only grows in the Keweenaw and especially in the wilds around Copper Harbor. Bilberry is known to be good for maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels and the leaves make a tea that is good for blood pressure. I guess that means that Jim was eating “health food.” Yeah, uh huh…

 

All I can tell you is that we both thoroughly enjoyed our sundaes, and it was great to be able to visit with family of an old friend. We immediately made plans to come back the next day for more camaraderie and, of course, more ice cream.

 

By the time we finished our ice cream and said good-bye, we were getting pretty worn out. It had been a very long day starting with birding (and getting eaten alive) in the morning and lots of driving in the middle. We decided to head back to the Eagle River Inn, grab some dinner, and try to get some sleep.

 

The road that we took back south followed the shoreline of Lake Superior. What a gorgeous place this is! We stopped at a couple of outlooks along the way. At one, there was a couple who were tossing a ‘duck’ out into the Lake for their chocolate lab to fetch. We enjoyed watching the dog swim out again and again (obviously enjoying his game), retrieving his prize, and returning it to his people.

 

We wanted to make certain that we got back to Fitzgerald’s (the superb restaurant at the Eagle River Inn) for our dinner reservation. The special was smoked prime rib! They have a huge smoker in the parking lot of the Inn. It smelled so wonderful when we left that we wanted to be sure not to miss out.

Fitzgerald’s
(Photo from their Website)

We were rewarded handsomely! That was one of the finest meals we’ve had in a while. The meat was smoked to perfection and the accompaniments were excellent. Jim had a smoked-fish appetizer. I tried it, but I decided that I’d save the room for dinner. I did, however, have a nice ‘Bookers.’ I must make a special note of the tremendous variety of whiskies that Fitzgerald’s stocks. Whether it’s bourbon or scotch whiskey that float your boat, they probably have your brand – or a brand that you’ve been wanting to try. They also have an excellent selection of whiskies from other parts of the world (Canadian, Irish, even Japanese).

Sunset at
The Eagle River Inn

 

After eating a huge meal, and the long day, we were ready for a good night’s sleep. This was the first time it really occurred to me that we were much further north. At 11:00 p.m., it was still light (and still HOT)! After snapping several photos of the amazing sunset and a late lakes’ freighter, I finally drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July! I figured I wouldn’t be getting much sleep at all then.

Lakes Freighter

 

Up Next: The Fourth of July – Keweenaw Style

 

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WIDMSV – Munising: Miners’ Castle and Shipwreck Tour

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

 

After the long, hot and ambitious day we had on Day 2 of our vacation (Birding, Big Bay, and Gwinn), one would think we would just sit back and relax. Not a chance! Hey, we only get to do this once a year – if we’re lucky. After another blueberry breakfast (Finnish pancakes with blueberry sauce and blueberry buckle; but, still, no meat), off to Munising we went.

One of the Formations
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

 

Munising is east of Marquette and is famous for its Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (http://www.nps.gov/piro/index.htm). A few years ago, we went on a Pictured Rocks cruise. I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The water in Lake Superior is so clear that it is possible to see as far down as 100 feet in some places. The national lakeshore has been scrupulously kept pristine and, for that, we should all be grateful. No t-shirt shops or hot dog stands mar the incredible natural beauty. If we had more time available, we’d absolutely go on that cruise again.

Great Lakes
Superior – darker color

 

For all y’all who have never actually seen the Great Lakes, I have to give you some information about Lake Superior. Before I saw the Great Lakes for the first time, I had no point of reference. My idea of a big lake is Lanier in Georgia. I grew up in Florida, so had always heard about Lake Okeechobee. I did actually drive around part of Okeechobee, but you don’t get visuals like you do the Great Lakes. The only thing I can equate looking out on one of the Great Lakes – especially Superior – is looking at the Gulf of Mexico or the ocean. You absolutely can NOT see the other side. They are so vast! Nothing really could prepare me for experiencing the Great Lakes and I am still stunned every time I see them.

Lake Superior
(NASA photo from Space)

 

For some terrific facts on Lake Superior, I’m attaching the following link: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/superior/superiorfacts.html

 

Some of my favorite points from this website are:

 

  • Lake Superior is, by surface area, the world’s largest freshwater lake.
  • The surface area of Lake Superior (31,700 square miles or 82,170 square kilometers) is greater than the combined areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
  • The Lake Superior shoreline, if straightened out, could connect Duluth and the Bahama Islands.
  • Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, even throwing in two extra Lake Eries.
  • Lake Superior contains 10% of all the earth’s fresh surface water.
  • There is enough water in Lake Superior (3,000,000,000,000,000 — or 3 quadrillion — gallons) to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot.
  • The deepest point in Lake Superior (about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan) is 1,300 feet (400 meters) below the surface.

    Miner’s Castle

 

We had made reservations to take a shipwreck tour, but arrived too early. We decided to take a side-trip to Miner’s Castle. We’d seen the formation from the Pictured Rocks Tour, but it is also accessible from the land side. While Jim walked out to get a closer look, I stayed around the parking lot because it was full of American Redstarts. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible and it sure paid off as I watched a female American Redstart gleaning bugs and take them into her nest. That was a first for me. I also got a charge out of watching her mate chase off every other bird who dared to come into their domain.

Lake Superior
Miner’s Castle in foreground

 

As I was watching the birds, a family (mom, dad and young son) came up and asked if I was birding. When I assured them that I was and that I didn’t at all mind answering questions (if I was able), they told me that they were from California and that their son was very interested in birds. I showed him the area to watch and he was thrilled to watch the female redstart going in and out of her hidden nest. Those moments, watching young people react to birds, are the best!

Female Redstart

 

Off to the docks we went. We have been so lucky, and our luck held! Both times we have planned and gone on boat rides on Superior, it’s been flat calm. I know y’all read my posts about The Edmund Fitzgerald (right?). Superior can be one angry, scary gal when she wants to be. For us, she’s been quite the lady.

 

We got down to the dock and boarded our glass-bottomed boat (http://shipwrecktours.com/) to three shipwrecks – the Bermuda, the Herman H. Hettler, and a French, Scow-Schooner that is, at present, un-identified (although it may be more than 400 years old, having been used in the fur trade) We also got the opportunity to go past the East Channel Lighthouse, both on the way out and back. The boat was quite full, but the tour operators were professional and made certain that everyone got an opportunity to see each of the shipwrecks. I knew that the waters of Superior were clean and clear, but this trip really brought that fact home. Although some of the ships were in 20+ feet of water, it was really easy to see the wreckage and make out boards, planks, fixtures (including a captain’s bathtub), passageways, and wheels.

Wreck of the Herman H. Hettler

 

I’m glad that we took the trip! It was definitely worth the time. If, however, you are only able to take one trip from Munising (either Pictured Rocks or Shipwreck), I’d strongly suggest that you opt for the Pictured Rocks cruise. As I said before, I’d definitely do that again!

Wreckage of the Bermuda

 

Anchor of Herman H. Hettler

East Channel Lighthouse

 

Up Next: WIDMSV – Munising: Muldoon’s & Open Wings; Marquette: Irish Rover

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. That’s okay, we’ll wait! At the top of the blog, you should see a button with “Follow” next to it. If you click that button, a checkmark should show up. At that point, you should be subscribed. (WordPress is one of the easiest blogs to work with, and I’m still frequently befuddled with how it works!)

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