Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Great Lakes Freighters

We've only been here a few hours and already we've seen four freighters....There are ocean bulk freighters, ocean general cargo vessels, lakes bulk freighters, and self-unloaders traveling the St. Mary's River to get between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Ocean bulk freighters are from 500-730 feet long. If you see another freighter that same length but they have derricks and booms up on top, that's an ocean general cargo vessel. Lakes bulk freighters can carry up to 30,000 tons of coal. How do I know all this stuff? I'd love to say it's because I have this awesome knowledge of all things maritime, but I don't! I just have the curiosity. The campground gives you a nice brochure upon check-in so you know what you are seeing. We've heard some awesome horns sounding and the meanings of those are in the brochure as well. One short, one long, one short means a vessel is at anchor in a fog. It's cool hearing the ships talk to each other. Kind of reminds me of that movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where the mother alien space ship musically talks to the scientists on earth and they answer back and forth in the very last few minutes of the movie.

After seeing a couple up close and personal, we decided to go see the Soo locks from a different persective--from shore in downtown Sault Sainte Marie. Last year we took a locks boat tour cruise which was really interesting and well worth the money to learn about the locks. This time we chose to go to the visitors' center instead to learn more about the locks and the ships passing through. They have a chart posted of the ships going "downbound" and "upbound" (to reflect the elevation differences in the St. Mary's River) There are actually two canals and four locks that the ships can pass through, and what size they are depends on what lock they can pass through. There is a 21 foot difference in elevation of the St. Mary's River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. We learned that more than 11,000 ships pass through the locks every year and that ONE 1000 foot Laker is equal to: SIX one-hundred car trains with 10,000 ton capacity in each OR 2308 large trucks of 26 tons capacity each! We also learned that there is going to be a new lock built over two of the existing locks once funding is approved.

Here are some photos from our trip to the shore side of Sault Ste. Marie at the Soo locks and our campground late Tuesday afternoon....Enjoy!

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