The Queen of the Lakes Emerging From the Mists

This beautiful, moody video shows the Paul R Tregurtha, longest boat on the Upper Great Lakes and therefore reigning Queen of the Lakes, entering Duluth Harbor under the Aerial Lift Bridge to close out the 2015 shipping season and begin her winter layup.  The cold weather creates an ethereal mist as the big laker comes in, covered in frost.

The Upper Great Lakes are kind of special.  They’re as big as seas, deep, and dangerous at times.  The Edmund Fitzgerald is merely the most famous of the wrecks that litter the bottoms of the lakes.  Oh, and the Fitz was considerably shorter than the Tregurtha, which will probably forever be the last of the thousand-footers.  The MV Paul R Tregurtha, which like all the lake freighters, is too large to pass out the Welland Canal and thus confined to the Great Lakes, is 1,013 ft long, with a beam of 105 ft.  For comparison, this puts her longer than most cruise ships (but narrower).  A big cruise ship could operate out of Duluth-Superior, if a terminal were built, but there would be the small problem of getting the ship there; just as the lakers cannot leave, a big ship cannot enter.  The biggest “salties” that can enter the upper lakes are those of Seawaymax proportions: 740 ft length, 78 feet beam, 26.51 ft draft, and height of not more than 116 ft above waterline.  The Fitz was just under this limit, and could theoretically escape the Lakes, but never did — there was never any reason to.  Those were the heydays of the rust belt, with ships hauling thousands of tons of iron ore to smelters in Michigan or Ohio who would convert it into steel, which would then become automobiles.

The Lakes remain natural wonders to this day.  Being up there on a really cold day is bracing, but a treat because of all the mists rising from the lake.  The shipping is still very active, even if there is less iron to move, but for me the real joy was always the lake itself, and the wild scenic beauty of Minnesota’s North Shore.  The Wisconsin/Michigan side is beautiful too, but I have so many fond childhood memories of family trips up through Duluth, to Lutsen, or beyond, to camp off the Gunflint Trail.  See Lake Superior!  It is very well worth it.

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