Tag Archives: Great Lakes Shipping

Great Lakes Ship Building


I recently ran across a online resource for Great Lakes Shipping enthusiasts.  The Fr. Edward J. Dowling, S.J. Marine Historical Collection offers an ever expanding data set of ships, shipbuilders and ship names that span back to the 1830’s. 


Steamship Alpena

“The collection also contains 52 notebooks filled with more than 70 years worth of compiled data on virtually every steamship (about 10,000) of more than 100 tons that has navigated the Great Lakes. The data includes the years of which the ships were built, their owners, the ships’ dimensions, type of equipment used on them, final disposition and other data. In addition, the collection has details on almost every fleet navigating the Great Lakes.”

Steamship Interior


I became very interested in ship building in the Thumb when I found that Caseville’s Frances Crawford built a schooner the Frank Crawford on the Pigeon River in 1861. See the post Ship Building in Caseville to find out more.  


Steamship Alpena2


Fr. Edward J. Dowling was a noted Great Lakes historian, an associate professor of engineering graphics at the University of Detroit, and a special lecturer in marine travel and commercial shipping on the Great Lakes. He authored Lakers of World, published by the University of Detroit Press in 1967 and numerous journal article on Great Lakes shipping.


Ships depicted are the City of Alpena from the Dowling Collection.

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Great Lakes Ice Coverage Now a Concern


This winter the Great Lakes experienced near record ice coverage. In March 2014 NOAA reported 92.2% of the Great Lakes were frozen. A record only Historic Ice Coverage 2014surpassed in 1979 with over 94% total ice coverage. This deep freeze over the Great lakes was viewed warmly as ice tends to prevent evaporation of the lakes and provide recovery for lake levels during the spring thaw. The coverage also ment that most of Michigan experienced a very sunny, albeit cold winter. All of the Great Lakes experienced record low water levels in early 2014. Matching levels 50 years ago in 1964.

Effects of Cold Winter Linger

This week Environment Canada posted a report showing lake ice still at an amazing 37% coverage. The coverage is primarily occurring on Lake Superior. Below normal temperatures and ongoing Ice Coverage Huronsnow fall is still occurring regularly the UP of Michigan. It’s estimated that most of the Great lakes will not be totally ice-free until mid May.

Local Impact

The ice has impacted harbor towns across the Great Lakes. Marquette Michigan’s newspaper Mining Journal reported that Marquette harbor is open – roughly two weeks later than normal. Ice breakers provided by the U.S. Coast Guard had to escort two Source: Mining Journalfreighters into the harbor this week. One freighter, The Barker delivered coal to the Presque Isle power plant. The delay in the shipping season forced We Energies to acquire reserve coal stock from  Marquette Board of Light and Power.

In Michigan’s Thumb, the long winter season has delayed work at Port Austin harbor.