OK, I know this is not what Ann-Christine had in mind for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week but if you really want to see an interesting take on the One Image/One Story theme you can do no better than visit her website. I already had a story to tell but it comes with rather more than a single image. The thing that I most wanted to see while we were staying in Duluth was one of the big cargo ships going under the historic aerial lift bridge. We checked the shipping schedule and hurried down to the harbor early in the morning on our second day in the hopes of catching the arrival of ‘American Integrity’. There had been a storm the night before so it wasn’t surprising that the ship was quite a bit behind schedule and we passed the time walking through Canal Park, up to the lighthouse and along the waterfront.
After a couple of hours, the Integrity appeared, a speck on the horizon, but having made its way towards the harbor, it slowed to a halt and remained tantalizingly at anchor, two miles out. We waited for what seemed like an age, and then, not knowing how long it planned on staying there, we decided to take a chance and go for lunch at a nearby restaurant. It must have been a fairly long lunch because by the time we got back to the bridge, the Integrity had already come in. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. Even the sight of a seagull doing a dance routine on the jetty failed to raise my spirits.
Since the bridge plays such an important part in what I was hoping to see, this would probably be a good time to say something about it. According to Wikipedia, it was originally built as a transporter bridge in 1905 and was converted to a vertical lift bridge in 1929. The bridge can be raised to its full height of 135ft in about a minute and is raised approximately 5,000 times per year. The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the bridge a National Historic Landmark in 2017.
Although I enjoyed the rest of our stay in Duluth, I couldn’t help ruminating on the fact that I’d missed my opportunity to see one of the big ships. On our final day, we took another look at the shipping schedule which showed that the Hon. James L. Oberstar was due to leave port that afternoon. Although we’d already seen the bridge being raised for several sight-seeing boats, this wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind. But this was more like it!
With warning signals clanging, the bridge began its ascent as spectators hurried to watch the ship make its approach. As the Oberstar cleared the bridge, the ship sounded its horn, which was loud enough, but when the bridge horn sounded a reply it was absolutely ear-splitting. Long-short-short is known as the Captains Salute but on November 10th, the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the Lift Bridge exchanges a special salute, long-long-long-short-short, with the SS Arthur M. Anderson in honor of the Fitzgerald and her crew, all 29 of whom were lost. The Anderson was the last freighter to have contact with the Fitzgerald before it sank and was the first on scene to search for survivors.
I couldn’t help thinking about the Edmund Fitzgerald as I watched Oberstar churning out into the waters of Lake Superior. It’s difficult to imagine, on calm days, lake waters being rough enough to sink a ship of this size, but the Great Lakes can be treacherous. It must have been the sea-faring genes in me (both my grandfather and great-uncle were sailors in the early 1900’s) but I felt quite choked up as the Oberstar pulled away.