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Monthly Archives: March 2014

On several recent visits to Brighton Beach in Duluth, Minnesota I have been able to take some photos of ice patterns.




These photos were taken last week.  Tugs were breaking out several ships in the Duluth area prior to the start of the shipping season. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Morro Bay, Katmai Bay and Mackinaw had broken a path to Duluth, Minnesota from the Soo Locks. On Wednesday morning they left Duluth to Lead a convoy of ships back to the Soo Locks.



The convoy picked up the Cason J. Callaway just outside of Two Harbors and it picked up the Presque Isle near Grand Portage. The John G. Munson was still loading in Two Harbors when the convoy left Two Harbors. The convoy slowed as it neared Thunder Bay and the Munson was able to catch up.

Cason Ju Callaway

Cason J Callaway

Things started going south after that. The Morro Bay and Katmai Bay stayed behind in Thunder Bay to break ice. The Morro Bay was damaged while breaking ice. The Katmai Bay had to tow the Morro Bay back to Duluth with assistance from the Alder. On Friday all three Cutters returned to Duluth with the Morrow under tow.  Divers discovered that most of the bolts holding the Morro’s rudder were broken.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

About the same time the Presque Isle was damaged by ice east of Thunder Bay and had to be escorted back to Thunder Bay by the Mackinaw. The Presque Isle has since returned to Duluth for Repairs. The Mackinaw spent Saturday in Thunder Bay breaking ice before departing late Saturday to finish leading the convoy to the Soo Locks.

Presque Isla

Presque Isle

The John G. Munson and the Cason J. Callaway are stranded in the northeastern part of Lake Superior waiting for ice breakers to assist them in getting to the Soo Locks.

John G. Munson

John G. Munson

The Locks opened on the 25th but at this point no ships have been able to get to the locks either from Lake Superior or Lake Michigan. The ice is five feet thick in places and some of the pressure ridges are eight feet thick. Three ships are currently waiting east of St. Ignace for ice breakers to assist them to the Locks.

Just before winter ended we had a snowstorm so I tried to photograph some of the birds that were hanging around my feeders.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Last week we drove up to Split Rock Lighthouse. Once we were past Brighton Beach we found very little ice on the lake. At Split Rock there was quite a bit of ice on Little Two Harbors. It was apparently firm because some people were walking from the mainland to Ellingson Island.Split-Rock-Lighthouse-14-3-_1337



Last Tuesday we were in Superior, Wisconsin to watch the John G. Munson leave the Frasier Shipyards for its first trip of 2014. We arrived around 11:20am. Two Heritage Marine Tugs the Helen H and Nels J had been working most of the morning to break up the ice from the St. Louis River to the Munson. The Monson was at winter layup at Frasier Shipyards. It was anchored far into the bay next to N 5th street. The Munson was scheduled to head for Two Harbors several days earlier but had some frozen pipes that had to be fixed.

When we arrived the Helen J was just starting to break the ice along the bay side of the ship. The Kaye E. Barker , and John J. Boland can be seen behind the Munson. In the background the Nels J can be seen breaking ice at the entrance to the dock.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1927

The Helen H worked its way along the side of the Munson. The ice was very thick and it was slow going. It would take a run at the ice and the front of the tug would slide on top of the ice before the weight of the tug collapsed the ice. It would then repeat the process. It broke the ice about half way up the length of the Munson before retiring.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1942a

The Munson’s captain then tried to free the ship by reversing engines. When that failed the captain tried to go forward. This went on for a while but the Monson remained firmly suck in the ice. It was quite a racket when the propellers were working because they sucked in large chunks of broken ice which were chopped up and thrown into the air.John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1959

The Helen H they repositioned itself to the dock side of the ship and attempted to push the Munson away from the dock. At one point the Helen H was pushing and the Munson was going in reverse but the result was the same the Munson was firmly stuck in the ice.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1975a

They next attached a tow line and the Helen H attempted to pull the Munson out into the channel. After a number of tries this too failed.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_1987

The next step was to break more ice along the bay side of the ship. This time the Helen H broke ice along three quarters of the ship. It then went back and broke ice along the dock side of the ship. The Helen H was then able to push the Munson free from the ice. At this point it was around 3pm and the Munson was still not able to exit the port at on its own.Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2001

The Nels J came up from the St. Louis River where it had been breaking ice. The Helen H positioned itself on the dock side of the Munson and the Nels J attached a tow rope to the Munson. The Nels J tried to pull the Munson away from the docks toward the St. Louis River but it was slow going.Nels-J,-Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2043

The Nels J Would move the Munson about fifteen feet before it would become stuck in the ice. The Munson would then start its engines and move forward about twenty feet and the process would be repeated. When we finally stopped watching about 4:30pm the Munson had moved about thirty yards in an hour and a half.Nels-j-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2030

I checked around 8pm and the Munson was finally in position to move out onto the St. Louis River on its own power and about 10pm I noticed it had just gone under the Blatnik Bridge on its way to Two Harbors. The next morning it was loading taconite at two harbors when the convey of ice breakers and ships left for the Soo Locks.


Every spring I have four legged visitors to my feeding stations. This year is no exception. Two raccoons turned up to help clean up the seed that has fallen on the ground.Racoon-13-3-_1565


The 2014 Shipping season started on Lake Superior last Saturday. Early in the morning two Heritage Marine Tugs, the Helen H and Nels J, Helped free the Cason J. Callaway from the ice so it could exit Duluth Harbor.

Later in the morning we drove over to Port Terminal 1 in Duluth where the Presque Isle spent the winter in layup. The Helen H was breaking ice around the Presque Isle so it leave the harbor to load taconite in Two Harbors.Helen-H-and-Presque-Isle-14-3-_1829


The ship’s crew was busy working to get ready for the first voyage of the year. Here they are working on the life boats.Presque-Isle-14-3-_1810

After watching the Helen H work for a while we decided to drive down to Canal Park and see if there were any ducks under the Lift Bridge. As we drove up my wife noticed that the Lift Bridge was up. The Coast Guard Cutter Alder was heading out into Lake Superior. I was so busy watching the Helen H I failed to notice the Alder leave port. We were too late to see it go under the bridge but I managed a shot as it hit the ice just outside the harbor. The Ship Canal was free of ice and it was clear for about a hundred yards out into the lake. There was thick ice out into the lake beyond Brighton Beach.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-14-3-_1825

The Alder made several passes clearing the way for the ships that were schedule to sail to Two Harbors. This is a shot of the Alder as it returned from its first trip.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-14-3-_1848

After Lunch I noticed the Cason J. Callaway was getting ready to depart for Two Harbors. We drove down to Canal Park only to find that it was already out into the lake. Apparently my Marine Traffic App was not working correctly. In fact, I had problems with it the rest of the day. You can see the Alder out in the lake in the background between the anchor and the North Breakwater Light. The Cason J. Callaway was the first ship to leave port for the 2014 season.Cason-J.-Callaway-14-3-_1852

We then decided to drive up to Brighton Beach and watch the Callaway make its way through the ice. It was a surreal scene at Brighton Beach with about a hundred fisherman and cross country skiers out on the ice with the Callaway in the background.Cason-J.-Callaway-Brighton-Beach-14-3-_1856

Just as we were about to leave Brighton Beach we noticed that the Helen H was also heading for Two Harbors. We decided to drive up to Two Harbors to watch the Alder and Helen H break ice before the Callaway docked.

When we arrived in Two Harbors there were already cars in the parking lot with more arriving every minute. Apparently we were not the only ones who thought it would be a good idea to watch the ships come in. It was bitterly cold out with the air temperature about fifteen degrees and a thirty five mile per hour wind.

The Alder was the first to arrive. It sailed around the harbor a couple of times breaking up the ice. I found it strange that the Alder didn’t break up the ice next to the loading docks but it didn’t.Coast-Guard-Cutter-Alder-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1884

The Callaway was the next ship to enter the harbor. Just as it entered the harbor the Helen H arrived to break up the ice around the docks. I always thought that tug boats would be used to help the ships into the docks but they are not required. Cason-J


After the Callaway was docked the Helen H continued breaking ice around the docks.Helen-H-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1919

The Cason J. Callaway, Presque Isle and the John G. Munson are all scheduled to load taconite at Two Harbors this week. When the loading is complete they will form a convoy with several Coast Guard Cutters and head for the Soo Locks. This is the first time since the 70’s that Coast Guard Cutters have been required to escort ships from Duluth to the Soo Locks.

I woke up about an hour before sunrise to drive down to Brighton Beach in Duluth, Minnesota to photograph the sunrise. The weather report the night before said cold but clear weather. As I drove out of the garage I noticed it was snowing. I thought about turning around but since I was already up I continued on to Brighton Beach.Brighton-Beach-Sunrise-14-3-_1162

I could see lights out on the ice which meant the ice fisherman were already out on the ice. I could also see a sliver of clear sky on the far horizon so there was hope for at least a brief sunrise.Brighton-Beach-Sunrise-14-3-_1087

As I walked on onto the ice I noticed that the cracks were about five times wider than they were the day before. Never-the-less ice fisherman were streaming out onto the ice. Some of them were going way out onto the ice.Brighton-Beach-Sunrise-14-3-_1114

We drove up to Grand Marais Harbor last week. This is really a two day trip from Duluth if you want to stop along the way but we did it in one day. Normally we drive to Grand Marais and stay then drive up to the Canadian Border the next day before returning to Duluth. This gives us plenty of time to make stops along the way.Grand-Marais-Lighthouses-14-2-_1014

I had hoped to get some nice intimate ice photos on the rocks outside the breakwater but there was just too much ice this time. This was a shot taken several years ago.Ice-Patterns-Grand-Marais-Harbor-12-2-_0329

The walkway on the breakwater was solid ice so we walked on the frozen water part of the way out before giving up. A snow squall started while we were out on the breakwater and the wind was blowing.West-Breakwater-Light-Grand-Marais-Harbor14-3-_1371

When we left Grand Marais little did we realize that our adventure was just beginning. This is the time of year that the deer come out of the hills and gather along highway 61. A few years ago we counted several hundred between Grand Marais and Duluth. On the way up we only saw a few dead ones.Grand-Marais-Breakwater-14-3-_1364

Just out of Grand Marais we saw a car just ahead of us hit a deer. The driver was ok. The deer was still alive and the car was totaled. We saw where another car hit a deer a short time later. The driver was checking out the front of the car and the dead deer was a little ways behind the car.

Unfortunately deer weren’t the only problem. Highway 61 has passing lanes every so far and we had pulled into the right lane. As the lane ended we pulled back into the main lane. Just then we saw a herd of deer in the road so my wife started pumping her breaks to alert the car behind us. Rather than slowing down he sped up so he sped up and drove on the right shoulder to pass us. Fortunately he missed the deer.

Before we got back to Duluth we had one more exciting moment. We were going slower than normal because all of the problem along the road when a van passed us on the left and at the same time a car passed us on the right shoulder. We were very happy to make it back home.

The past few weeks there have been some nice ice photos at Brighton Beach. We have been out walking around the beach and captured a few photos of the ice.Brighton-Beach-Ice-14-3-_1288



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