A Superior Winter

While many complained about this winter’s weather, and I won’t go so far as saying that the weather was great, the weather’s effect on Lake Superior was quite extraordinary. Starting in late November when windswept waves coated the rocks and ninebark in ice, topped off by a dusting snow. Then in mid December a snowstorm coated the trunks of trees along the lake’s shoreline in snow.

By Christmas Eve morning depending on which way you looked from Duluth’s Brighton Beach there was either lots of ice or just a bit floating around on the lake.

On New Year’s morning the lake looked sealed from Duluth, though a drive up the North Shore would have revealed the fact that most of the lake was open water.  The following morning I watched the ice slowly drift away from shore, with the newly open water between the ice and shore promptly icing over. So in the picture of a sundog in the sea smoke, the ice at the bottom is the newest with the ice getting progressively older as you approach the horizon.

A trip to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in February, revealed a side of Superior that was completely new to me. A lake that appeared to be a huge plane that you could use to walk from the South Shore to the North Shore, though the satellite imagery showed that this would not have been possible. The next morning along Minnesota Point the same feeling could be had only in this time it looked like you would be able to walk the shipping routes out of the Twin Ports.

While I have spent many hours exploring Lake Superior’s shoreline by foot, exploring the lake by foot was something that didn’t feel quite right to me. The volatility of Superior’s conditions is something I have too much respect for to get comfortable walking around on her ice.

By mid March with Superior about 90% covered in ice, a couple of days of wind from the south turned the lake east of Grand Marais, MN into what seemed like an endless pile of ice. The colors of the ice even on a cloudy day were a seemingly unnatural blue. I wanted to walk out into the ice field but the plates of ice varied from the size and thickness of a desert plate to slabs that could have been used for the floor of a single car garage. With no way of telling what the thickness of the ice underfoot was, combined with the occasional sound of ice falling, made exploring a no go.

By mid April winter’s grip was beginning to loosen but that didn’t mean that the ice was going anywhere fast. The piles of ice along Brighton Beach looked more like a collapsed snow fort than a pile of ice.

Late into May much of Minnesota Point and all of Wisconsin Point still had piles of ice along them that when met with warm air produced the fog that is visible on the horizon of this photograph from Brighton Beach.

It was a good winter to be a photographer, as long as you knew how to dress for the conditions.

-EAK, July 2014