Thursday, July 21, 2011

Whitefish Point

We did a day trip from the Soo to Whitefish Point to visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. We chose to take the scenic route to the museum and much of the drive was through the Hiawatha National Forest with occasional spectacular views of the bay.

Along the way we stopped at the Point Iroquois Light Station that, along with the Gros Cap Reefs Light on the Canadian side, guides ships through the Whitefish Bay to the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks. We climbed the tower and could see the reef light in the distance. The house has been restored to the way it looked in the 1950's and the visitors center has a good display of the tools of the keepers.
Part of the shipwreck museum is the restored USCG Lifeboat Station. The equipment is the same as that used by the stations on the Outer Banks. The boat was towed to the waters edge to be rowed out to rescue survivors. The wagon has a cannon that fired a line to ships that had run aground so people could be rescued using a breaches buoy to pull them ashore. The famous quote of the lifesavers was, "boys the manual says we have to go out, it does not say we have to return." I am sure these rescues in the icy waters of Lake Superior were very dangerous.

The museum had a display of Fresnel lights including a second order one that was several feet high. There were exhibits on the way diving equipment has changed over the years. The yellow divers suit was used in 1995 to dive 550 feet to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is the ship's bell from the Fitz that was recovered on that dive. A new bell with the names of the 29 sailors who were lost in the 1975 wreck was placed aboard the ship. Family members were invited to ring the bell while the names of there departed loved ones were read before the bell was lowered to the ship. The site is now off limits to divers since it is a grave site.

The Whitefish Point Light Station. The tower is different than any we have been in so we paid extra for the chance to climb the narrow cylinder to the top. The spiral staircase is very tight.

This is Whitefish Point from the top of the lighthouse. They told us we could see the spot where the Fitzgerald went down 17 miles from the point. On the horizon is a Great Lakes freighter that we had seen on the St Marys River earlier in the day.

Here we are at the top with Lake Superior in the background. We have now been to all five Great Lakes on our travels. The museum has exhibits on several wrecks that happened near here over the years. Many of them were the result of ships running into each other during foggy conditions. A large portion of the wrecks, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, took place in November when Lake Superior has many storms with hurricane force winds.

The keeper's house at the station has been very well restored to show the life of the keepers and their families. All the furniture is original to the house.

Near Whitefish Point is Tahquamenon Falls that is second in size to only Niagara for falls east of the Mississippi. The falls are 200 feet across and 50 feet high. The beautiful unique color comes from the tannin that Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock trees put in the water. For years the river was used to transport logs from the forest to the lake where they were put on ships to be sent to the mills. Since it was a sunny warm day we were happy to find the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery offering several varieties of craft beer at a pub in the park. I don't think they use the river water for the beer.

1 comment:

PalmsRV said...

When I was a kid and the folks took us to the falls there used to be a trail, a very muddy trail, that we would take and you could walk back under the falls. It seems like we were able to go about 50 feet back behind them. Enjoy the U.P.