Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Boats Go Up, Boats Go Down

We enter the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan via the Mackinac Bridge on a drizzly day.

As bridges go, it is a pretty bridge.  It also holds the record as the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere and is the third longest suspension span in the United States.

Upon entering the U.P. we head North until we see the border crossing into Canada.  A slight jog to the right and we land at the Sault Ste. Marie Locks.

The Soo Locks, as they are called, are an amazing feat of engineering that allow ships to safely pass between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.

The St. Marys River connects Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.  However, it contains rapids in which the water falls around 21 feet from the level of Lake Superior (the higher lake).  Without the locks, ships would be unable to carry cargo through this area and it would instead require some sort of portage via land. 

Just a few minutes after arriving, we head over to the observation platform and catch sight of our first freighter entering the locks.

The CSL Niagra is 740 feet long and can carry nearly 38,000 tons of cargo.

The Niagra was headed upbound toward Lake Superior.  That means it needs to be raised 21 feet before it can be released.
In the above photo you can see the level the ship entered the lock at by looking at the word 'LINES' written on the side of it.

Here it is on the rise.  You can use the flag pole or cart as a reference.

It takes some time for the raising and lowering to happen.  So, Nicole managed to occupy herself photographing a new moth that landed on the glass.

He has been a tough one to ID thus far but we're pretty sure he is of the Geometer variety.

** Speaking of ID's, we had some inquiries about the ID of the snake Nicole almost stepped on (mentioned in the previous post) and have since confirmed it was an Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (sometimes called Puff Adders).  Apparently, when confronted they can spread the skin around their head and neck to look like a cobra.  That would have surely freaked us out had we seen it!  Although not poisonous to humans, they do strike and bite and those allergic to their amphibian-specific venom can have swelling at the bite location.

Now back to the CSL Niagra...

Up it goes...

Necessary water level achieved and now she's ready to head on out.

Time to cruise Lake Superior.

A few fast facts...

Between seven and ten thousand ships pass through the locks each year.

It takes 22 million gallons of water to lift a boat. 

The locks operate on a gravity fed system via the opening and closing of valves. 

Ninety percent of the world's iron ore move through the locks each year. 

It would take 584 train cars to move the amount of cargo that just one 1000 foot freighter can.

We enjoyed our time at...



And, with that, we'll leave you with a (silent) video at you to bring the event to life a bit.  The drizzle played with our camera somewhat but hopefully you'll get a sense of the experience.

Until next time....