These three photographs obviously are not mine. Never in 1,000 years could I take photos as remarkable as they are, but, thanks to good fortune, I stumbled across them. Although it might not be easily recognizable at first glance, these three photos are of the same point of land on Lake Superior. Most remarkable of all in the sense that I stumbled onto them, these three photos show the precise, exact and specific waters off the shoreline of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in which I learned how to handle a canoe on "big water" -- on Lake Superior.
I learned how to ride with the waves and atop the waves, how to use the waves rebounding off boulders to make my way along a rocky coastline on a stormy day, how to slip and slide my way past the waves, and, most importantly, how to feel as one with the water and the wind and the rocks. I shudder simply from thinking of it, from the memory of it -- trepidation turning into confidence and then into exuberance.
There only have been two things I have real, natural-born, instinctive talent at, neither of which is a particularly practical or an everyday useful sort of skill. One is handling a handgun at any range, in any light, in any weather, in any circumstance. The other is handling a canoe in any water, in any light, in (almost) any weather, in any circumstance.
The chapter heading here, incidentally -- Lac de Superior or Nadouessious -- is taken from a reproduction of a French map of this region published in 1719. This was Lake Superior, or the lake of the cut throats, the lake of the Sioux, who were about to be pushed south and west, and who already had been replaced by the Ojibwa on the northern shores.
Summer flies -- why, oh, why can't I?
An island known as Isle Royale lies a few miles offshore from Minnesota on Lake Superior, but is part of the state of Michigan. It is a national park. It is wild and beautiful, with moose and wolves among the notable occupants. At about 45 miles long and nine miles wide, it is not a small island. There are many trails to hike but, personally, I think it preferable to explore by water.
The first video posted here was created by some folks who used kayaks to cruise the waters around the island. The music accompaniment is "The Bridge," by Bradley Joseph, a piano and orchestral piece which might be a relief for those who during the past few days have taken the time to listen to heavy-duty rock, Minnesota style, in the form of the Vixens.
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
The second video posted here is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." The Fitzgerald was an iron ore carrier that went down with all hands during a storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. For those not familiar with Lake Superior, the gales of November, with the seasons in change, are legendary for their ferocity. Winds reaching 80 miles an hour and waves running 25 feet in height were reported the evening the Fitzgerald was lost.
While the video features a song written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot, there actually is considerable footage of the Fitzgerald both atop the Lake and resting on the bottom. Also present is the actual radio transmission between the Coast Guard and another ship, the Arthur M. Anderson, which had been trailing the Fitzgerald by about ten miles and whose crew had witnessed it disappear from the radar screen.
The Fitzgerald had departed Superior, Wisconsin, with a cargo of 26,116 tons of taconite pellets consigned to Detroit. The ship encountered increasingly heavy weather, and sank in Canadian waters about 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay and safety. There were 29 men aboard who died with their ship that evening. The exact cause for the sinking continues to be debated even now.