CURRENT GRAND MARAIS SCENES: September 2009

This month’s featured photos include a mixture of scenes. First, I’ve included a few from Whitefish Point, taken last weekend when I was there with a booth and teaching agate classes. The first is a picture taken from my booth on the porch of the gift shop, looking out over the museum complex. I must admit that the number of tourists was surprising, as was the care that the historical society has taken to preserve buildings, add new structures, and present information about Great Lakes shipwrecks. If you have never visited Whitefish Point, located 11 miles north of Paradise, I highly recommend that you plan a trip.

I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy being at that location, due to the booth and the classes. However, early on Saturday morning, I did venture down the beach for a short time. The next picture was taken from the water’s edge, looking back at the lighthouse – taking advantage of an artistic piece of driftwood.

Whitefish Point had the first operating lighthouse on Lake Superior in 1849, although the current tower was erected much later. Since navigation began on Lake Superior, there have been approximately 550 wrecks, most of which occurred on the south coast. As a result, the south shore has been nicknamed “the graveyard coast.” More vessels were lost in the Whitefish Point area than any other part of Lake Superior. There are three major reasons for the high loss of ships in this area. First, the eastern end of the lake is very congested where the lake narrows down like a funnel. Up and downbound ships must pass through this fairly narrow channel-like bay. Second, poor vis

ility from the fog, forest fires, and snow caused numerous collisions and groundings in this narrow, congested bay. Finally, over 200 miles of open water with predominant northwest winds can build up terrific seas during storms, making navigation into Whitefish Bay quite a challenge.

Collisions were more common in earlier times because there were more vessels, and, of course, none of the modern navigational technologies. In the 1880s over 3,100 commercial vessels traveled Lake Superior, compared to less than 200 today. Since the first known shipwreck of a commercial vessel, The Invincible, in November 1816 to the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975, approximately 320 lives have been lost along the Graveyard Coast. Below is a photo of makeshift memorial markers for 3 of the 29 crew members lost during the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I’ve also included a photo of a passing ore freighter to illustrate how close to shore the vessels must travel to get into or pass out of Whitefish Bay.

After returning home and working the museum one-day last week, my friend Renee Beaver and I went camping east of town. Pictured below are our cooking fire and the view we had of Lake Superior. Later that night, a fantastic lightning storm moved from southwest to northeast over the lake. Although we had hoped for Northern Lights, which have been nonexistent this year, we were satisfied with the incredible lightning show.

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