Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lots of Trouble in Great Lakes

This photo of the Algobay after her grounding was taken by Bill, my boat watching friend from the Soo. Thanks for the great shot Bill.

I found this picture of the St. Marys River system was taken by NASA. I hope they don't mind if I use it. I'm sure I'll hear from them if they don't like it. I have heard from the United States Coast Guard when I used one of their pictures. They didn't mind as long as I credited them with the photo.

This past two weeks I have heard about several unfortunate incidents in the Great Lakes shipping system. There have been four groundings and one helicopter crash. There was no loss of life in any of the accidents which is really amazing.

The most spectacular was the crash of a United States Coast Guard helicopter near Port Huron. The helicopter was conducting hoist practice when it crashed into 50 feet of water. The crew of three was able to escape without harm. The helicopter was later recovered and loaded on a platform and taken to a hangar for analysis. Both the black box and the main rotor blades were recovered which will aid in determining the cause of the accident.

We have watched the Coast Guard practice hoisting victims from the water in front of our cabin and it is fascinating to watch. The Coast Guard conducted the practice with supporting law enforcement from the community manning the boats on the water and helping to load the 'victims' for transport to the helicopter. The Chippewa County Sheriff, Tribal Police and State police were all involved.

Besides the crash, there have been four ships that ran aground in the river so far this spring. This includes the Algobay on April 13, a saltie, the Iryda on April 16 and the Joseph L. Block on April 19. All three ships have gone for repairs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Deadly Voyage

Every once in a while I read a book that so moves me that I cannot stop thinking about it. I want to talk about it to all my friends and process the story together. Deadly Voyage is such a book. I began reading Deadly Voyage last week in our car as my husband and I made our way home from a Spring Break road trip. After I was into the second chapter, I told my husband, "You are going to want to hear this story." For the rest of the day, I read out loud the book. There were times we wanted more of the story and at certain points, we had to stop to talk together about the story.

Deadly Voyage, written by Andrew Kantar, tells the story of the Daniel J. Morrell, a Great Lakes freighter. The Daniel J. Morrell sunk in Lake Huron in a hurricane force storm in November 1966. The story is eerily similar to the shipwreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which occurred 9 years later but the Morrell story has something the Fitzgerald doesn't have-a survivor to tell us what actually happened. We hear how the crew was alerted of the danger, the personalities of the sailors, even what they talked about as they waited for the ship, now broken in two pieces, to go down.

Dennis Hale, the sole survivor of the Morrell tragedy, floated for 38 hours on a life raft with 3 of his shipmates. None of them were able to survivor the bitter cold and high winds that buffeted them until they washed up on the shore of Lake Huron. Hale was eventually discovered by the Coast Guard and he was near death from hypothermia. He tells how he survived including a visit with his mother who had died when he was born and an appearance of a stranger who warned him to stop sucking on ice on his jacket which he was doing for water. Hale later learned that that could have cost him his life by lowering his body temperature.

Andrew Kantar has written a moving, human account of this story. He presents the facts with writing that engages and keeps your interest. After I finished reading the first chapter to Tom, I asked, "Do you want to hear more?" His response, "Of course." That's a high recommendation from him.

I can recommend Deadly Voyage too. It is a piece of Great Lakes history but it is also a look at the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of great danger and tragedy. You can purchase the book at

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sixty Years of Opening the Cabin

Brenda, Kathy & Tory Erickson 1954

This May will mark the 60th anniversary for the building of our cabin. My grandparents built it on the St. Marys River on some undeveloped pasture land that they bought from my grandmother's sister's family. My grandparents, the Ericksons, were the first to build on what is called Loma Beach between 6 Mile and 7 Mile Roads. There was no electricity there at that time. In fact, there weren't even roads into the place. The above picture was taken in 1954. I am on the left, my sister in the high chair and my grandmother is on the right. The high chair is still in use at the cabin. Babies were always tied into that high chair with a diaper.

So our family has been opening the cabin in the spring for 60 years. There were a few years in there that someone lived there all winter long. My parents and us children did that several winters but for the most part, the cabin was closed down each winter.

Opening the cabin is a highlight for me as I'm sure it was for my grandparents. It is a signal that summer is coming with the wonderful times relaxing at the cabin.

This May is also my 60th birthday. I think we should have some celebrations for both 60th birthdays! I'll keep you informed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Deadly Voyage

Andrew Kantar fielded questions from the audience.
Dennis Hale with the life jacket he was wearing when rescued by the US Coast Guard

Dennis Hale is a survivor. In fact, he is the sole survivor of a Great Lakes shipwreck that occured in 1966. There were 29 men on the Daniel J. Morrel when she encountered hurricane force conditions in November 1966. The storm caused the Morrel to break into 2 pieces. Hale and three shipmates made it to a life raft after being thrown off the boat but after 38 hours adrift, Hale was the only one still alive when they were found by the Coast Guard. I'll write more of this horrific story in the next few days.

The story has been described in a book by Dr. Andrew Kantar called Deadly Voyage. I heard Hale and Kantar speak last night at the Big Rapids Community Library. They will be speaking again on May 6 & May 8 at other Mecosta County Libraries. It was worth the hour drive for me to meet these men and hear a first hand report of the sinking of the Morrel.

I will write a more detailed review of Deadly Voyage in the next few days but I can say it is an excellent accounting of the wreck and its effect of the families of the seamen. I would recommend Deadly Voyage to anyone interested in reading of this Great Lakes tragedy but also as a story of the resiliency of the human spirit.

This video clip shows Dennis Hale answering questions about the wreck. He states the the Morrel should have been at the Soo if she had not be wrecked.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Amazing Rivers

Maybe it is because I grew up on the shore of the St. Marys River but I am fascinated with rivers-every kind and location. I've been studying rivers this winter and found that they come in every shape and size. The definition of a river is very general-a flow of water over land that follows a channel-is the best I've seen. There are no rules about size, length to make a river. How interesting.

We left our home near Grand Rapids, Michigan on Wednesday and I've kept track of the different rivers we've crossed. My list is up to 16 now and I'm sure there were a few that I missed. The most interesting to me were the Tippecanoe and Wabash in Indiana which played a major role in our history. But I believe all rivers play a role in history. I think if you want to study the history of the development of the US, just look at the rivers.

Anyway, yesterday we crossed the largest river in the US, the Mississippi River. These pictures are from that crossing. You can see Mississippi River transportation is much different that Great Lakes transportation.

I'm hoping to put together a collection of photos from rivers in Michigan. There are over 300 of them. If you have a photos of Michigan rivers that you are willing to share with me, I would be most appreciative and would definitely give you credit.