By David Aho
Lake Superior Trip Report
Have you ever watched Lake Superior on a blustery, winter day? The waves pound the shore as though powered by some unseen malevolence that churns her mighty water from beyond the gray horizon. That wonderful blue water turns a sour gray as the cold wind and driving snow create a foreboding environment of ethereal beauty not duplicated anywhere. Frozen waves coat those trees and shrubs hearty enough to endure her proximity, tenacious pests unworthy to cower at her doorstep as she spends her wrath. Rocks, trees, sand and creations of man all yield inexorably to her indefatigable power. All people stand in awe of her raging beauty. (I hate to refer to the overused female metaphor when describing The Lake, but it happens much too easily and naturally to ignore.)
Those of us native to the U.P. and The Lake think of her often when gone. There is a solitude and serenity found on her shores, as though one were looking off the end of the world toward an unseen paradise beyond the horizon. She is warm and placid under an August sun; angry and tossed by November's squalls; frozen and tranquil beneath a February moon. She has lured thousands to her shores to seek solace, contemplate life, and to hide from its seedier elements. There is peace here for those who seek it.
My father sailed her waters for twenty five years, through all kinds of weather, even the great gale that sank the Fitzgerald in 1975. He knew her as only few men have, in all her timeless enchantment and raging fury, lively and dormant, comforting and terrifying. To live near and on her for most of a lifetime breeds a respectful adoration that is part of my legacy, perhaps all of ours, those of us who live here.
Lake Superior, 600 feet above sea level, has 2700 miles of shoreline, speckled with beautiful beaches and rocky coastlines. The largest of the great Lakes, Superior stretches 350 miles long and spreads 160 miles across at the widest point. It is the largest lake in the world in area and the third largest in total water volume. It has an average depth of 485 feet and a maximum depth of 1340 feet. At 48 degrees north latitude, the water stays a chilly 65 degrees at its warmest in August and sometimes freezes over entirely in the winter, the last time in March of 2003.
As you drive east out of Marquette in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula, you can spot countless miles of unspoiled, sand beaches along Highway M-28 all the way to the town of Munising, some 45 miles away. The seclusion of these beaches are conducive to private get-togethers and nude sunbathing. There are myriad spots to park along the highway besides the occasional scenic turnouts.
Residents of the U.S. and Canada are concerned about various schemes to divert water from Superior to the economic boom towns of the Southwest and the anticipated boom in Mexico. Wouldn't that be the ultimate injustice to Michigan and the Great Lakes states? Not only do our manufacturing jobs head to Old Mexico, but our beautiful lakes as well!
I have no doubt that someone will jump at the chance to divert water if it can be shown there's a buck to be made from it. There were forces eager to build a pulp mill with all its accompanying poisons on her pristine banks only a few years ago.
There is nothing people won't do for money, hence the violent drug trade, warmongering, prostitution; some sickos even use children in heinous porno movies. Polluting water means nothing to some, so why would diverting it discourage them?
I'm sure if this matter isn't laid to rest soon, we'll start hearing more feasibility studies for water diversion, highlighted with the usual industry garbage: "a few zillion gallons will only lower the level a couple of centimeters, ... no environmental damage is expected, ... the Whooping Owl can nest elsewhere, ... it'll provide jobs for Northern Michigan, ... etc."
As the winter doldrums set in, one can take a break from the tedious routine, dress appropriately and be treated to a quiet walk near The Lake, alone, or with a non-speaking dog. Skip a few rocks if they aren't frozen to the beach or buried in snow by then. You can let your mind wander where it will. Let the waves lapping at the shore massage your soul.
Now imagine some greedy corporations pumping our clean water away, into the Mississippi River and south to where the good jobs are going. It makes me nauseous.
I have an alternate plan: let's convince them that zebra mussels, a miserable pest that eats phytoplankton (and small zooplankton) are a culinary delicacy. By removing most of the food for microscopic zooplankton and filter feeders, which in turn support larval and juvenile fishes and other animals, zebra mussels can effectively starve the native populations of infested lakes and rivers. Lakes that were full of phytoplankton before zebra mussel infestation are devoid of the algae afterwards. These mussels are a persistent problem for game fishing in Lake Superior. Michigan should hire some high-powered Madison Avenue ad agency to sell the notion of zebra mussel delicacies to those tycoons who stand to get rich from the Mexican boom. Soon, they'll start eating them by the shovel full and we'll have the last laugh, all the way to the bank.
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