History’s Gem of the Month: Article about Seagull (Lost) Island, Grand Marais Bay

December 2017

This morning I went through some of the Gitche Gumee Museum’s archives and came across a newspaper article about the island that used to be on the outside edge of Grand Marais Bay. The island had different names including Seagull Island, Gull Island, and Lost Island.

In the late 1960s my sister and I were the last to walk on the island, which at that time was a narrow spit of sand around 60 feet long. We had rented a canoe from the museum founder, Axel Niemi, and canoed down the old Sucker River to East Bay, carried the canoe across the peninsula by Lonesome Point, and canoed over to the island before returning to the marina. The next day after our canoe ride there was a huge storm. When the waves subsided, the island was no longer. And yes, as the article describes, the seagulls made sure we did not stay on the island very long.

Before getting to the article, here are a series of photos and diagrams of the harbor. This first image shows the harbor configuration in 1870. Although it appears there is a gap allowing access to the bay, the gap was too shallow to allow ships to access the west bay. Then a ship sunk near this gap to further obstruct shipping traffic. Thus, the original settlement of Grand Marais was on East Bay. Eventually the channel was dug on the west side of west bay to allow access to the larger bay.

The photo below from 1897 shows Gull Island. The picture was taken from the end of the peninsula (Coast Guard Point).

The diagram below shows changes to the bay over time.

The photo below was also taken from the end of Coast Guard Point. It was taken sometime during the late 1950s or early 1960s.

NOTE: The article below was cut out of a newspaper, but Axel did not write the date or the name of the newspaper on the clipping.

This Island Really is ‘for the birds’ By Harry C. Sahs

No Matter who holds the deed, gulls “own” the 4.7 acre spit of land the villagers of Grand Marais, Mich., call Gull Island. Thousands of herring seagulls make the island their home, “repelling” visitors with dive-bombing attacks and incessant screams.

Gull Island protects the tiny harbor at Grand Marais from the full fury of Lake Superior. It is adjacent to the rock-bound harbor and breakwater entrance guarded by a U.S. Coast Guard station.

George L. Jacobites of Highland Park, and Edmund Warren, of Miami, Fla., hold the deed, but the gulls hold the land. “It would take a shooting war to force eviction,” said Jacobites. “They’re sticklers for rights,” he said.

Federal law protects the gulls. Harming them could mean a $500 fine, six months in jail or both.

Togetherness is a striking trait of the gulls, who leave the island just ahead of the severest cold and ice and return early in the spring, when Gull Island’s bird population is especially inhospitable to trespassers.

Downy nestlings change their color several times the first year before becoming predominantly white. But one thing they never change is their possessive feeling about gull Island.

It’s their home.

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