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Category Archives: Mesabi Miner

I was down at the Duluth, Minnesota Harbor to watch the finish of the NorthShore Inline Marathon when I noticed the Mesabi Miner leaving the harbor. I became engrossed in watching the ship and almost missed the elite inline skaters finish the race. This was also the weekend of the Le Festival des Montgolfières  which is Duluth’s balloon festival. A couple of years ago during this same weekend the Mesabi Miner had a steering problem and didn’t make the turn. As a result it ran aground at Bayfront Park during the festival.

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While watching the Wednesday Night Sailboat Races in Duluth we watched the Mesabi Miner enter the harbor.

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Boat Nerds call it a twofer when they are able to photograph two shops on the same visit to the harbor. On this particular day the Mesabi Miner was leaving the harbor and the Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin was arriving.

While I was waiting for the Miner to reach the harbor entrance I took a few photos of the Tug Donald L. Billmaier. It had just returned to the Core of Engineers Docks with the Crane Barge Howard J. Schwartz and tug Hammond Bay. They had been working over in Superior earlier in the day. The Miner can be seen in the background.

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The Miner was belching a lot of smoke as it made its way out of the harbor.

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The Martin was supposed to come in as soon as the Miner exited the harbor but it took a long time for it to arrive. I don’t ever recall a ship moving so slowly. The folks who were “bridged” were probably not happy because the bridge was up for a long time.

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While I was waiting I took a photo of a Ringed-bill Gull.

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I noticed there were some ships coming into Duluth early in the morning so I drove down to Canal Park to watch. It’s great this time of year because the parking is free.

The Paul R. Tregurtha, the largest ship on the Great Lakes, sailed in. I photographed it as it entered the harbor then decided to drive down to Rice’s Point to watch it sail into the docks.

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When I arrived at Rice’s Point I checked Marine Tracker and noticed that another ship was sailing toward Rice’s Point. There were a couple of other Boat Nerds at Rice’s point watching the ships. The Mesabi Miner was just making the turn to go under the Blatnick Bridge. The Paul R. Tregurtha had to wait for the Miner transit under the bridge. For some reason the ship was going to back up the Saint Louis River to the docks.

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While I was waiting for the big ships to work their way up the river I took a few photos of the small fishing boats that were heading out into the lake for some Trout fishing. The season just opened so everyone was in a hurry to get out into the lake.

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As we walked out onto Arrowhead Bridge I noticed a Canada Goose just above my head. The other photographers were over six feet tall and the goose was not happy. It reached down and hissed at them. Apparently it has been nesting there the last few years and has been known to attack passersby.

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There were also several other Canada Geese nesting next two the Arrowhead Bridge.

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Once the Miner had gotten under the bridge the Tregurtha started backing up the river.

Paul R. Tregurtha Rice's Point 16-4-_1722

We were in Duluth, Minnesota last weekend ship watching. On Friday were in Canal Park to watch the Mesabi Miner arrive. It didn’t appear to have any problem entering the harbor even though there were some large waves.

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A close-up of some of the crew as the ship passed under the Lift Bridge. The crew was probably happy to be getting off of the lake.

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Just as the Miner was turning to travel down the harbor I noticed a small Coast Guard vessel leaving the harbor. I manage a few shots of it as it fought though the high waves in the ship canal.

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The next day conditions were even worse as we watched the Miner exit the ship canal and head out into the lake.

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On Sunday morning my wife and I were heading out for a walk along the Duluth waterfront when I check the Marine Traffic on my phone and noticed that the Heritage Marine Tug the Nels J was out breaking ice. We decided to forgo the walk and drive out to Rice’s Point to watch the tug work.

Helen H

Helen H

When we arrived the tug was working at the Calumet Fuel Dock which is a secure area where we couldn’t photograph. I assumed that a ship was going to move from winter layup to refuel before the start of the shipping season and the Nels J was breaking up ice around the dock. I was having problems following the Nels J with my Marine Tracker and discovered the app hadn’t been updated in some time so I updated it. When It came back on I noticed the Nels J was heading to Rice’s Point. I grabbed my camera but was a little late to get any good photos. Just about then my wife noticed another Heritage Marine tug, the Helen H sail out from Howard’s Pocket where the Frasier Shipyards are located. We watched as the Helen H moved back into Howard’s Pocket.

We jumped in the car and drove down to Conner’s Point which offers a good view of the ships in winter layup at Frasier Shipyards. Sure enough the Helen H had already broken ice to free the John G. Munson from the ice. As was getting up steam to move out of winter layup. This was a far cry from last year when we watched most of the day while the Helen H and Nels J tried to free the Munson from the heavy ice.

John G. Munson and Helen H

John G. Munson and Helen H

Duluth has a good collection of Boat Nerds that show up whenever there are boats moving. Many of the folks that were watching the Munson leave were also on hand to watch the Indiana Harbor arrive to end the shipping season at Wisconsin Point.

Indiana Harbor

Indiana Harbor

We watched as the John G. Munson slowly backed out of Howard’s Pocket and under the Blatnick Bridge. It was followed by the Helen H in case it ran into trouble. He Nels J was waiting at out in the Saint Louis River in case it was needed to help turn the Munson.

Helen H and John G. Munson

Helen H and John G. Munson

The Munson then sailed under the Blatnick Bridge past Rice’s Point before turning and then backing into the Calumet Fuel Dock where it spent several hours refueling. The Nels J was on hand in case it needed help docking.

John G. Munson and American Integrity-

John G. Munson and American Integrity-

 

 

When the Lake Superior shipping season ended the third week of January some of the ships that ply the great lakes head for Duluth/Superior for winter layup. This season a smaller number of ships than normal are in winter layup. Five ships in all can be seen this winter. A sixth ship, the Edwin H. Gott , was scheduled to layup but it could not make it through the Soo Locks before they closed.

The John G. Munson was the last ship to come into port on January 20th and is in Fraser Shipyard for winter layup.John G. Munson 15-2-_2392

The Kaye E. Barker is in dry dock also at the Fraser Shipyard.

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The Mesabi Miner came in on Monday morning, January 19, 2015 and can be found at the Midwest Energy Resources dock.

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The American Integrity was the first of 6 vessels scheduled to arrive in Duluth/Superior for winter layup. She arrived on January 7and can be found at the Carrier Port Terminal Berth 1.

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The Indiana Harbor arrived January 17th entering the Superior entrance and is at the Enbridge Ogdensburg Pier. We happened to be at Wisconsin Point when the Indiana Harbor arrived.

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Lake Superior shipping should resume in about a month.

I was watching this sail boat come through the Ship Canal. The sail was up but they weren’t moving very fast. It didn’t sound like their engine was working. All of a sudden I noticed that everyone grabbed a paddle and started frantically paddling.Paddlers-14-8-_2496

Turns out the Mesabi Miner was headed out through the Ship Canal.Mesabi-Miner-14-8-_2497

A week ago my wife and I drove up to Duluth. As we were leaving I checked the Marine Traffic site to see if any ships would be coming into Duluth during the day. As it turned out there was a large convey of ships on their way from the Soo Locks. Most of the ships were coming to Duluth although a one was going to Two Harbors. I didn’t expect to see them arrive in Duluth because we were going to make a stop at Crex Meadows to photograph birds.

Paul R. Tregurtha

Paul R. Tregurtha

As we neared Duluth I checked Marine Traffic and discovered the ships had not arrived so we headed down to Canal Park to watch them come through the Ship Canal. In total there were six ships in the convoy. This is the largest number of cargo ships that I’ve seen come into the harbor at one time.

Mesabi Miner

Mesabi Miner

This was also the last convoy of the spring. Since the shipping season opened the third week in March ships have only been able to sail from the Soo Locks to Duluth in convoys escorted by Coast Guard Ice Breakers. The ice has just been too thick for the ships to make it on their own.

Tim S. Dool

Tim S. Dool

One of the ships in the first convoy leaving Duluth required a month to make the trip. Normally four deliveries could be made during that time. Some of the steel mills had to close because they ran out of iron ore.

Buffalo

Buffalo

The Coast Guard said it would come to a freighters aid should it become stuck in the ice. As the ships were entering the harbor an ice breaker was working off of the Superior entry.

Jamer R. Barker

Jamer R. Barker

You can still see the ice outside the harbor. As each ship came through the Ship Canal it pushed more ice into the harbor. It took a couple of hours for all of the ships to make it into port.

John G. Munson

John G. Munson

One of the main activities in Duluth, Minnesota is ship watching in Canal Park. Duluth is the cargo capital of the great lakes with over 1,000 ship visits every year. Ship watching usually starts the end of March and runs through January of the next year. Peak times are in the summer months when Canal Park is loaded with tourists. Unfortunately there are not always ships entering or leaving the harbor so without good planning you may not see many ships.

CSL Laurentine

CSL Laurentine

The first place I always check when planning a trip to Duluth is the Duluth Shipping News website. This provides a ship schedule which lists ships that are expected to arrive and depart from Duluth and Superior harbors as well as the harbors along the north shore. It also provides an approximate time when the ships will arrive and depart and a hot link to additional information on the ship. Unfortunately the times given are in “ship time” which means they may or may not depart around the times given or even on the day given. Never the less you can get a good idea of expected ship activity for a given time period.

Indiana Harbor

Indiana Harbor

The Shipping News also provides information on any special activities that are taking place. This includes the arrival or departure of a special ship or maybe ice breaking activities taking place in the harbor. It also provides historical information on all of the ships that enter the harbor.

Edgar B. Speer

Edgar B. Speer

As I mentioned this is always the first place I check when planning a trip. Unfortunately the times given for the ships are not always accurate so once I arrive in Duluth I then start following ships on MarineTraffic.com. This website uses AIS (Automatic Identification System) data to track ships around the world. This is the first shipping season that it has tracked ships in the Duluth Superior area.

Cason J. Callaway

Cason J. Callaway

When you initially connect to the site you will encounter a world map of shipping. All you need to do is to zoom into Lake Superior. Once you start watching shipping in the Duluth area you are ready to go. The next time you enter the site it will automatically open to the last location you were looking at.

Biscayne Bay

Biscayne Bay

The ships are identified by various types and colors of icons. The icons differ depending on whether or not the ship is moving. When you click on the icon a window will pop up that provides you with the flag of the ship, photo of the ship, ship type, its status, speed, destination and estimated time of arrival in UTC time.

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US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw

You can also click on a link that shows the vessel’s track. This link shows where the ship has been over a given period of time. When you are finished looking at the track just right click and the track will disappear. Usually what I’m interested in is where the ship is going and how long it will take it to arrive. To do this click on the distance too.. link. A waypoint balloon will appear on the map. Click on the destination and a second balloon will appear. For example if you were tracking the American Spirit and wanted to know how long before it arrived in Duluth click on the distance too… link and then click a second time on Duluth. When the second balloon appears it will tell you approximately how long will take the ship to arrive in Duluth at its current speed. A right click will clear the map.

Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin

Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin

If you really get into things you can add ships to your fleet and track you fleet. You can also get notification of vessel arrival and departures etc.

Arthur M. Anderson

Arthur M. Anderson

In addition to the web base site Marine Traffic also has an app for phones that allows you to track the status of ships. It provides much of the same information that the web site does. It is very useful if you are out and about and want to track ships.

Tug/barge Spartan and Spartan II

Tug/barge Spartan and Spartan II

Up until this year the only site that tracked marine traffic in the Duluth/Superior area was AIS/Marine Information from Thunder Bay. I still use this site occasionally. Sometimes I know a ship is in a particular location and the Marine Traffic website is not picking it up and it shows up on the Thunder Bay site. The Thunder Bay site does not provide as much information particularly it does not display the destination and the ETA. I end up using the Duluth Shipping News to see where the ship is headed and then follow its progress on the Thunder Bay site.

Mesabi Miner

Mesabi Miner

Following the ships will be even more interesting this year because the tall ships will be coming to Duluth the end of July. All of the tall ships have tracking devices on them so you will be able to follow them as they arrive, sail and depart from Duluth. This photo of the Niagara was taken a few years ago when it visited Duluth.

U.S. Brig Niagara

U.S. Brig Niagara

Even with the AIS tracking available things don’t always go according to plan. When shipping season opened this year I was tracking the Mesabi Miner as it steamed toward Duluth. It was supposed to be the first ship to arrive for the season. There were a number of photographers in Canal Park to observe the arrival. As the ship neared the canal entrance it moved off to the south. Word spread that it was heading for the Superior entrance and they all jumped in their cars and took off. A little while later I heard it drop anchor. It turned out that another ship was already docked where it was going to dock so it had to anchor until that ship departed. In retrospect I could have probably figured this out if I had looked a little more closely at the ships that were already in the harbor and check the Duluth Shipping News to see which dock the Mesabi Miner was going to use.

Mesabi Miner

Mesabi Miner

A little later in the season I observed the Federal Kamano which arrived around the end of April and anchored out in the harbor. Apparently there were some problems with its papers and it wasn’t until a month later entered port to pick up grain. I happened to be in Duluth when it arrived and again when it was going to depart. I normally check the Marine Traffic site the first thing in the morning to see if any ships are arriving or departing. Fortunately I live close enough to Canal Park so I can just walk down to the ship canal if I see activity. On this day I noticed that the Kamano had departed from the dock and was heading out to Lake Superior. There was a lot of fog that morning and when I arrived at the ship canal the tracker indicated the ship was steaming down the harbor toward the ship canal. It never showed up. the next time I looked at the tracker the ship was anchored out in the harbor. Apparently the fog was too thick for it to leave the harbor.

Federal Kumano

Federal Kumano

Late in the spring I was tracking a ship as it came under the Blatnik Bridge heading for the ship canal. I grabbed my camera gear and headed down to Canal Park. The ship never came out. I noticed a ship at the fueling docks but could see the name. I later checked the Duluth Shipping News which noted the ship intended to leave the docks and then stop for fuel before leaving Duluth. If I had checked the Duluth Shipping News I would have know that. A couple of hours later the ship finally went out of the harbor.

James R. Barker

James R. Barker

It is also possible to listen into the Duluth Harbor Marine broadcasts. I’ve not had a lot of success with this probably because there is not that much marine traffic. A complete listing of radio channels can be found at this link. the information was provided by the Duluth Marine Museum. Probably the biggest day for marine radio traffic was April 13 of this year. Because of a big storm there were fourteen ships either in port of anchored outside the harbor. When the storm finally lifted all of the ships were jockeying for position to either leave the harbor or get into the harbor. There was a lot of marine broadcast traffic during that time and some of the captains were a little upset. There is no harbor master in Duluth so the ships had to work out who was going to go first etc. between themselves.