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 in 2014

Historic Ice Coverage on the Great Lakes in 2014

Ice Coverage 2014

During the winter of  2014, the Great Lakes experienced near record ice coverage. In March 2014 NOAA reported 92.2% of the Great Lakes were frozen. A record only surpassed 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 meant 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 in 1964.


Effects of 2014 Cold Winter Lingered

Ice Coverage Huron

Ice Coverage April 2014

In April of 2014  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 snowfall were still occurring regularly the UP of Michigan. It was estimated that most of the Great Lakes would not bet be totally ice-free until mid-May. 


Local Impact of High Ice Coverage

Source: Mining Journal
Coast Guard Ice Breaker Source: Mining Journal

The ice impacted harbor towns across the Great Lakes. Marquette Michigan’s newspaper Mining Journal reported that Marquette harbor was opened two weeks later than normal. Icebreakers provided by the U.S. Coast Guard had to escort two freighters into the harbor. 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.