On Tuesday 19 Aug we got up and after coffee and breakfast finished hitching up (in the rain) and headed out on our 220 mile transit to Newberry MI. The drive was pretty much without incident or much traffic…we stopped for lunch at Hardees and arrived at Clementz’s North Country Campground here in Newberry and got settled into site 15. It’s a grass site with pretty open sides and full hookups…it actually is a lot nicer than we thought it would be based on the google satellite photos but that’s OK. It is nice and quiet and the folks running it are friendly…although the wifi sucks so we’re just using our air card and running down to the local library for Connie to work as even the air card doesn’t have much signal here. The Internet at the library is wicked fast so we headed out there yesterday for work and computer stuff and will head out again Friday as it’s supposed to rain again.
Thursday, however…was forecast to be partly cloudy and nice so we headed out for some Fun Stuff©…our first stop was at Whitefish Point at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. Turns out that Lake Superior narrows way down here at the eastern end and of the over 500 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes since navigation here started almost 200 of them have been on or near Whitefish Point. You might think that Whitefish Bay (which is adjacent to Whitefish Point) sounds familiar…if not I’ll just offer you these lyrics to help refresh your memory.
“The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 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
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
Then later that night when the ship’s bell rang
Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
‘Twas the witch of November come stealin’
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin’
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck
Sayin’ “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya”
At seven PM a main hatchway caved in
He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya”
The captain wired in he had water comin’ in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers 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
They 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
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below, Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral
The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early
Yup…it’s that part of Lake Superior…the graveyard of many ships including the Edmund Fitzgerald. For maximum effect…you should listen to the song as you read the rest of this post so here’s a link to open in a new window or tab so you have some nice ambiance for the post Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Turns out that the most common cause of shipwrecks in this area is collision between loaded ships heading east and empty ones heading west to pick up more ore or grain. There’s lots of fog, lots of ships, and a narrow neck of Lake Superior. One ship back in the late 1890s was responsible for colliding with and sinking 4 (yes, 4) different vessels in a single month. The master of that vessel’s excuse was “We’re a Royal Mail ship…and everybody else should just get out of our way.” The second most common cause…and one which has taken at least 6 vessels as we observed in the museum at the Historical Society…is loss during bad weather. Of the six large ore carrying ships that sunk up to and including the Fitzgerald in 1975…all of these 6 just broke apart and sank according to the survivors (and radar returns in the Fitzerald’s case). The cause is thought to be some strange interaction of the wave period and bottom depth causing the bow and stern of the ships to be on wave crests with the trough of the wave underneath the middle of this ship. Loss of support in this situation in the center portion of the ship breaks it’s back and results in rapid sinking with very few survivors.
Anyway…here are some snapshots we took in the museum.
The Edmund Fitzgerald’s bell which was recovered in 1995, 20 years after it sank.
A lens from one of the many generations of lighthouse lights that mark the inlet to Whitefish Bay. This is a Fresnel lens type light…this specimen is 9 feet in diameter and is only a Second Order light, First Order lenses are even larger. This particular lens floated on a liquid mercury bearing and was turned by a weight and cable mechanism to provide it’s 7.5 second periodicity…the movement is very similar to that in a grandfather clock (except that the weight was wound up 44 feet in the 125 foot tall tower) and it had to be wound every 2 hours and 18 minutes so obviously the light keeper didn’t get much sleep at night.
So, how does this Fresnel lens thing work? Glad you asked. You need a sharply curved lens in order to take the point source of the light…which is located at the center of the lens…and turn it into a straight beam that will be visible a long way…28 nautical miles for the lens above. The trouble with a lens that is the proper shape is that it’s almost hemispherical shaped…a full lens of 9 feet diameter would be a bowl shape about 4 feet in depth; and in addition the bowl shape would require a lot of glass which means a lot of weight. So…this Frenchman named strangely enough Fresnel…figured out a better way. What he did was take the large lens and cut it in some concentric circles then compress the circles into a single vertical plane; essentially the same thing that happens with an extendable pointer. Collapsing the rings…and there are about 23 or so in the lens picture above…into a single vertical plane makes the entire lens only about a foot thick. This means less glass, less weight, and much easier to mount and move the thing. That’s probably way more than you wanted to know…but hey, it’s my blog and I felt like putting it in.
This shot of an anchor that was recovered from one of the shipwrecks is displayed like just about every other anchor you’ve ever seen…with the flukes (the sharp iron pieces) parallel to the floor and the stock (the wooden piece at the top) vertical. Unfortunately…this very common display position is 100% wrong in that it’s not the way an anchor actually works. In actuality the weight of the chain (and there is always chain attached to the anchor itself even if most of the anchor line is hemp or manila instead of chain) pulls the wooden piece of the stock down to lay on the bottom. This turns the flukes vertical so that one of them will dig into the bottom and thus the anchor will actually anchor itself to the bottom and work…the standard display position would result in the anchor dragging and the ship ending up on the rocks instead.
Here’s a shot of the lighthouse itself…this is the 125 foot tall tube that the weight went up and down in to power the mechanism that rotated the Fresnel lens above along with it’s light source.
The last item we saw at the museum was this 12 foot 9 inch Lego model of the Edmund Fitzgerald…it’s got over 18,000 pieces in it. We figured out (well, Neil figured out, I had nothing to do with it) that at an average number of pieces per pound of 160-300 based on our Internet research that this model weighs between 60 and 115 pounds.
From there we headed back home and after a quick stop for a sandwich at a convenience store we decided to stop by and see the Tahquamenon Falls. This is composed of the upper falls which drops about 40 feet or so and the lower falls which has 4 or 5 parallel drops of just a few feet right as the river gets pretty close to the lake. Connie missed this one originally on her Fun Stuff© planning but it was a nice afternoon so we decided to see them instead of leaving them for the weekend. Good thing we did as it was pretty crowded on a Thursday afternoon…we would hate to be here on the weekend. when it really got bad.
Here’s a shot of the largest portion of the lower falls before we walked around to see them from the top…the top section is about 6 feet and the two lower sections are just a couple feet each. Water depth below these is just a foot or so…which means that there were lots of idiot children whose even more idiot parents let them crawl out into dangerous situations.
After a half mile or so walk on a nice paved path we got around to the top of the lower falls.
We walked a half mile or so back to the car and drove to the upper falls…the alternative was a 4 mile hike up the edge of the river…which would have been OK but then there would have been another 4 mile hike back to the car so we took the easy way out. Once at the upper falls we had another walk of a half or three quarters of a mile out to first the top of the upper falls and then a slightly downstream gorge view of the upper falls. The top required negotiating a set of 94 stairs down partway into the gorge then back up…the gorge overlook required a set of 116 steps down and up. The upper falls are about 40 or so feet tall and much more impressive than the lower ones…but again were pretty crowded so we again congratulated ourselves on not coming on the weekend. Here’s the upper falls after our 94 step descent to the top and then a closeup of some pink flowers Connie liked with the water in the background.
After hiking back up the 94 steps we headed a quarter mile or so downstream then down the 116 steps to the overlook in the gorge at river level for a more classic view of the upper falls. You can just see the viewing platform he took the above two shots from at the far right of this shot.
With that our day was done…or so we thought. After trudging back up the 116 steps and the almost 3/4 of a mile back to the parking lot (for about 2.5 miles total with 350 feet or so of climbing) Connie was getting pretty wore out and was barely going to make it the car. Neil happened to look off to the left as we passed the restrooms and said “It’s a miracle…look, I see the Tahquamenon Brewery and Pub”…at which point we took an immediate left turn, did not pass Go, and proceeded directly to the bar where we had a pint each of their Black Bear Stout…which was really more of a black ale than a stout…but it was mighty tasty anyway. I gotta tell ya…finishing up the day with a cold brew before you even let the sweat dry off is a pretty sweet way to celebrate your hike.
After that it was home where Neil grilled some chicken that was marinated in Italian dressing…we had that along with some cranberry stuffing and veggies along with another beer and a glass of wine. After that it was showers and rest until bed. Tomorrow we’re off early to the library for Connie to work and Neil has some computer stuff and travel arrangement stuff to finish up…once he’s done with that we’ll have all of our parking arrangements completed until we get back to Seminole Campground in Fort Myers on Nov 1. Then we’re off to the Elks Lodge in Newberry tomorrow evening where they have a fried perch dinner…yum.