By Beverly Hicks Burch
Lake Superior is a formidable body of water. When you stand before it you can’t help but think you are standing in front of an ocean or sea…it’s that vast and powerful. And, as beautiful as it is it can be just as treacherous.
The weather on the Lake is changeable and can be very dangerous. The giant ore freighters that traversed the Lake were often in peril from gale force winds from storms that blew up on the Lake. Some of the storms were epic in strength…and created shipwrecks that created heroic maritime lore. You might have heard of one of these wrecks…the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald…made famous by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot.
I first became acquainted with Lake Superior back in 1987 when I lived for a short time in the Duluth area. Down on Duluth’s waterfront is or I should say was when I was there a Maritime Museum and one of the exhibits was dedicated to the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.
I thought of the Fitzgerald recently when Tall & Handsome and I took a trip up to Minnesota’s North Shore. You see, November is known as the “month of storms” on the Great Lakes” and I could certainly see that…and feel that as the cold and wind cut through this Southern gal’s clothing. Clouds hung low over the Lake the day we were there and although snow was late this year, I could feel the promise of it in the frigid air.
The Fitzgerald hit one of the worst storms to hit the Great Lakes on November 10, 1975. The storm eventually sank the mighty freight near Whitefish Point and took all 29 souls with it. The area is called “The Graveyard of the Great Lakes”. Legend tells us that Lake Superior very seldom gives up her dead. This is mostly because the water is so cold year round and the dead sink to the depths of the Lake, never to rise to the top again. (Scientist would explain that is because the water is too cold to cause the bacteria growth need for the dead to rise back to the surface.)
Lake Superior is also known as a giant rock tumbler. Rocks along the shore are smooth and shiny…just like they were dumped out of a child’s rock tumbler. Use to be you could find a lot of polished agate along the shores, but I’m not sure about nowadays.
The Great Lakes are the largest bodies of freshwater on Earth…once I heard they held something like 75% of the fresh water on Earth. Keeping that in mind, just remember that Lake Superior is the largest of all the Great Lakes. The year round temp of the Lake is about 40° F and the deepest point is 733 ft. Waves can reach 30 feet high. Because of its size, the retention time, or the mean time water spends in the Lake is 191 years.
Standing before this giant is a beautifully sobering event. Many, many emotions, feelings and thoughts rush through your mind at the same time not the least of which is the beauty and power the Lake bears and the privilege for experiencing the moment. I’ve always thought that as Americans we lived in one of the most beautiful and geographically diverse countries in the world and places like Lake Superior just confirm that…
Is There Snow in the Air?
Cold, Windy Day Looking Across Lake Superior
© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.