The Mighty Mac

August 28th, 2013, 1am

In August of 2013 I had the good fortune of traveling on a 826 foot Great Lakes ore freighter from Two Harbors on Lake Superior just outside Duluth Minnesota to Indiana Harbor on the southern end of Lake Michigan just east of Chicago. I sailed on the Lee A Tregurtha.

The Lee A. Tregurtha is a sister ship to the Paul R. Tregurtha a 1013 foot ship, the Queen of the Great Lakes, the largest. It seems the company named the bigger ship after the company’s owner, Paul R. and the smaller ship after his wife, Lee A.!

Company CEOs do know who signs the checks!

After 70 years watching the freighters glide in and out of Duluth, I actually experienced a trip and saw how the big boats operate.

The ship travels a day and a half on Lake Superior to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie called the ‘Soo locks’ where the freighter is lowered 21 feet so it can sail the St. Mary’s river to Lake Huron.

The Ojibwe called these rapids ‘Baawitigong’ (at the cascading rapids). The French Canadians, the first Europeans on the scene, called the locals ‘Saulteaux’ pronounced soh-toh, People of the Rapids. Now-a-days Sault Sainte-Marie which translates from Canadian French as ‘the Rapids of Saint Mary’ is written Sault Ste. Marie. Folks on the Great Lakes call it simply it the Soo! (Pronounced like the girl’s name Sue or what lawyers do to earn money, sue.)

A few miles down the river near DeTour Village, which has nothing to do with a ‘a roundabout or circuitous way or course’, but is simply the French again, referring to the turn you must from the mouth of the St. Mary’s river to enter Lake Michigan. At DeTour you steer your boat west into the straits of Mackinac.

By the way, on the Great Lake the huge 500 to 1000 foot ships ARE called boats.

In the straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) we passed under the mighty Mackinaw Suspension Bridge (called the mighty Mac - pronounced Mac). Obviously too many illiterate non-speakers carried the name Michillimackinac from the Ojibwe through French to the dictionaries of the English speaking patricians in Boston. (Of course, you can visit a place spelt Mackinaw City as you travel. At least someone, sometime, tried to be consistent!)

On the return trip I got up at 2 am to photograph the Mighty Mac. It unites the upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. It also helps define someone from Michigan.

Those who live on the upper peninsula, north of the bridge (above the bridge), call themselves Yoopers. Those living south of (under) the bridge are called trolls (those mythological creatures of Scandinavian folklore that live under bridges). It seems trolls is a dismissive term used primarily by the Yoopers. (In some areas the Scandinavians describe trolls as ugly and slow-witted.)

Now, I have you orthoepically and linguistically prepared for your first visit to the Great Lakes region.

I’m exhausted so I’ll write more later about the 6 day ‘cruise’ later.

g, Shu and David Wade said thanks.

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Ken Jackson

An avid outdoors man. Retired and retiring, living on the shore of Lake Superior

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