"In about 30 years, if we humans continue with our negligence, an ounce of drinking water will cost the same as an ounce of gold."

March 29th, 2014, 8pm

It was -5°C. The wind was calm.

This Superior Sea

With her vast flows of ice this season, Lake Superior sent two modern state-of-the-art vessels limping back to port. Not a few miles down her shore from where these injured vessels moored before repair, I sat with academics, scientists, public officials and other citizens contemplating this vast “Superior Sea” and at a public forum called “The Mysteries of Lake Superior Top to Bottom”. We began reflecting on ‘The Superior Sea: Why the World’s Largest Freshwater Lake Is So Special” and near the end considered “WaterWalkers: Anishinaabe Women as Waterkeepers”. Beginning with Lake Superior, they have walked around each of the Great Lakes “to raise people’s awareness of the current state of our waters and the need for sources of clean water for us and for the future generations.”

More forcefully: An Anishinaabe prophesied that “In about 30 years, if we humans continue with our negligence, an ounce of drinking water will cost the same as an ounce of gold.”

The Coast Guard ship Morro Bay, a state of the art 140 ft ice breaking tug, had all but one of the two inch bolts holding the rudder on her stern broken by the ice. New, custom bolts must be crafted and the ship towed to a ship yard for repair.

The Presque Isle, a 1000 foot freighter had unspecified damage to her hull which necessitated her return to Duluth. She had a full load of iron ore, badly needed by a steel mill, which began reduced reduced scheduled of making steel once the Lakers became stalled in ice fields.

This Superior See had humbled our mighty machines but, though vast, she is not immune to our actions.

Climate Change has increased the average temperature of our region. Therefore winter ice cover has been less, the summer waters of Lake Superior warmer increases evaporation causing receding lake level. The change in climate has stoked energy into the wild gyrations of our weather and perhaps caused a multitude of extreme events (this sever winter one of them). We discussed evaporation, and water diversion from Lake Superior. Unlikely, you think, we could drain the lake and send the water to the arid SouthWest. however the lake need not be drain to effect major changes. We have witnessed the Arial Sea and the Colorado River nearly sucked dry of water. Inhabitants who depended on that water have found their landscape and climate changed.

We toy with the dangerous shipping, toxic heavy crude oil in freighter acros her fragil pristine water forgetful of the Exxon Valdez and Prince William sound or British petroleum and the Gulf of Mexico.

We heard of the success of many remediation projects cleaning up the messes tossed into many corners of this Lake during the last 150 years: sawdust, slaughter house remants, petroleum toxins, sewage, war munitions.

We discussed many human structures, some think foolish. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and enable Chicago to flush its sewage into the Mississippi with water from Lake Michigan. It may now provide a path for invasive carp to enter the Great Lakes and destroy native fisheries. We have placed oil refineries build on the shores of the Great Lakes and recently enlarged them but provided inadequate save guards to prevent spills.

Water walker Josephine reminds us: “Lake Superior is a gentle, kind and spiritual, but an unpredictable Lake as she can change her character in an instant. This lake is very powerful and in time, she has taken many lives. The walk around Lake Superior was spiritual and moving. Water on this lake is still drinkable”.

Did we see a flash of Lake Superior’s anger? Will we take it to heart?

We learned of and were chastised by Lake Superior on one day but do we grow more humble and reverent?

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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