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The ice is getting thicker
February 18, 2014 7:10 PM   Subscribe

For the first time in five years, Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake, has frozen enough to allow visitors from northern Wisconsin to walk across the lake to the ice caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

More stunning pictures here and here and here.
posted by computech_apolloniajames (44 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazing photos!
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:19 PM on February 18


My facebook feed's been full of photos from friends who've made the trip. Incredible.
posted by entropone at 7:26 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Hey, I was just out there at the Ice Caves a few weeks ago! It was pretty amazing (warning! personal blog!) It was absolutely worth the drive, the crowd, the snow, the wind on the lake. I got a real kick out of seeing the cliffs by standing under them: last time I saw them, I was in a kayak. After a few days like today (temps in the upper 30's...downright tropical) I'd be surprised if the ice caves lasted much longer. Get out there while you can!

In related interesting news, the frozen lake provides a great opportunity for the Isle Royale wolf population to get some much-needed new genes on the island.

See? There are good things about this crazy cold winter!
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:41 PM on February 18 [12 favorites]


Wow! The night sky photos are amazing. I would imagine the ice is too rough to skate on, but I would have thought there would be more skiers. A few tracks, but that's it.

(What's with the recently deceased animals on the heads of that couple?)
posted by BlueHorse at 7:42 PM on February 18


Funny that the caption for probably the best picture, the last one, neglects to mention the northern lights going on in the background.
I've spent a lot of time around and on Lake Superior (the eastern shore), and am amazed to think that it could ever freeze up like this.
posted by Flashman at 7:48 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


My river has had to have the ice-chomping barges come chomp the ice out of the shipping lanes because we assume all y'all in the rest of the world still want us to send you food. Cold cold cold cold cold cold cold. Also if this weather keeps up I'm just going to become a supervillain because UGH. I cannot shovel anymore. I just can't. I have three cans of Diet Coke left and if this spell of good weather doesn't hold long enough for me to get to Costco, THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES.

Elly Vortex, amazing pics!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


I keep telling my husband that I didn't move to Minnesota so I could kayak in a deadly sea in the summer, and I sure as shit didn't move here to explore ice caves in one in the winter. Quit supporting his cause, internet.
posted by padraigin at 8:17 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend's dad grew up on one of the Apostle Islands, we were just up there in the fall. He told us how he and his siblings would have to ski across the lake to get to school. When we were on a little boat out there it seemed hard to believe but seeing these pictures makes it look, well, kinda reasonable.
posted by troika at 8:17 PM on February 18


Also, there was bear poop all over the island we visited. The bears get out there by walking on the ice, which seems like a lousy fate once it all melts.
posted by troika at 8:19 PM on February 18


I keep telling my husband that I didn't move to Minnesota so I could kayak in a deadly sea in the summer, and I sure as shit didn't move here to explore ice caves in one in the winter.

So... you moved there for the hot dish suppers?
posted by hippybear at 8:25 PM on February 18 [14 favorites]


Wow, I wanna go! Gorgeous!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:43 PM on February 18


Commentary from global-warming denialists in 3, 2, 1....
posted by e-man at 9:01 PM on February 18


I'm with padraigin; it doesn't look good to me even if you think it is safe and beautiful and and no, NO, not going!
posted by Anitanola at 9:03 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]



I keep telling my husband that I didn't move to Minnesota so I could kayak in a deadly sea in the summer, and I sure as shit didn't move here to explore ice caves in one in the winter. Quit supporting his cause, internet.


I grew up in Northern Minnesota, and.... well, you're welcome to your feelings, but you are really missing out.

Lake Superior is an amazing body of water - you will never find a body of water so large and so clear. The lake itself creates its own weather and the forces that shaped the land and formed it have created some geography wholly unlike anything else in the world.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:28 PM on February 18 [9 favorites]


And all it took was sufficient global warming to wreck the jet stream and bring part of the polar vortex well south of where it should've been!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:38 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


(What's with the recently deceased animals on the heads of that couple?)

Pretty sure that's a North American Furred Brain Slug.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:45 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


I mean no disrespect to Lake Superior and certainly not to Minnesotans; I concede this is rare and beautiful and many people are eager to see it up close. I don't fault them for that. I feel sorry for their dogs, of course. I chose to live in the subtropics, however, because ice.

"Lake Superior is an amazing body of water - you will never find a body of water so large and so clear. The lake itself creates its own weather and the forces that shaped the land and formed it have created some geography wholly unlike anything else in the world."

Much of the same sort of awe and wonder could be claimed for the island chain currently being enlarged the action of Mount Kilauea but I would not go trekking up there to get a closer look at it, either!
posted by Anitanola at 10:07 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Yeah, these are great. I went to school for a year on Lake Erie, and the fact that frozen, wind-whipped waves are there...just, wow. I wasn't a photographer then, which is a real shame.

I was just saying to someone today that this winter, as shitty as it is in NYC, feels like ones from when I was a kid in the 70s...just cold and snow and like a real winter...I remember being like 6 and being able to make an igloo on my front lawn for like 2 months.

Well, now I have a trip to contemplate. Meetup?
posted by nevercalm at 10:14 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Cool.
posted by homunculus at 12:13 AM on February 19


What's with the recently deceased animals on the heads of that couple?Tr

Fur is warm. Trapping is also cultural, providing a connection to the land.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:19 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]


I was just saying to someone today that this winter, as shitty as it is in NYC, feels like ones from when I was a kid in the 70s.

That is an accurate impression. The winters of 77-78 and 78-79 were some of the coldest in the 20th century in the US. And the winter of 77-78 is an "analog" for this winter according to meteorologists, meaning the overall patterns are the same.

The current ice coverage on the Great Lakes is the most since 1994. And the maximum ice usually isn't reached until mid-March, so there could be a new record, particularly since the polar vortex with more arctic air will invade the area this weekend and last into the 1st half of March. The ice will also probably make for a colder than normal spring and summer for the Great Lakes area as it will take extra long for melting and lake warming to occur.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:56 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


There are caves in NY and MA that contain ice well into Summer, and have "Ice Cave" in their names.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:10 AM on February 19


Meh. Looks a lot like the gutters on my house right now.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:48 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


(What's with the recently deceased animals on the heads of that couple?)

Maybe they told their friends that they were going to see the ice caves, and their friends said: "Wear the fox hat?"
posted by Floydd at 5:26 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


My boyfriend's dad grew up on one of the Apostle Islands, we were just up there in the fall. He told us how he and his siblings would have to ski across the lake to get to school.

Undoubtedly you are talking about Madeline Island right off of Bayfield. Nowadays they have an official ice road that you drive back and forth to the island during winter. Tried going our tot he ice caves about 3-4 weeks ago, but met the unexpected massive crowds so kept on going and drove over to the island, driving on ice that far out is.... trippy. There has been a massive amount of national attention to the caves this year so the sheer number of people (22000 last weekend) has been overwhelming to the locals. Good for the economy I guess, but man.

Yeah I feel bad about this part, but I kinda wish it was still a little less known. That many people out in the caves certainly has a negative effect on the ice structures and likely means I'm just not going to make it this year. But, then again I've been about two or three times in the past, and kayak out there most summers so...
posted by edgeways at 5:46 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


The ice is getting thicker

And Leon is getting LARGER!
posted by dr_dank at 6:06 AM on February 19 [9 favorites]


It's very pretty, but I hope those people are keeping an eye out for wampas, or at least have a spare tauntaun handy.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:20 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


The dead animals you see there on the scalps of those cretins is FUR, FURRRRRRRR
posted by Colonel Panic at 6:54 AM on February 19


What's with the recently deceased animals on the heads of that couple?

Well, I guess the fur is real, but there's something about the faces that makes me think they're artificial. Like one step beyond those cute knitted bear hats.
posted by ymgve at 7:06 AM on February 19


Cornucopia is my preferred summer vacation location. The South Shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin and the towns and areas surrounding the ice caves (Corny, Herbster, Port Wing) are generally little known, underutilized, and uncrowded during most of the year, ice cave winters excluded. Especially when compared to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota and Madeline Island and Bayfield just to the east.

If you visit the area at any time of the year, I heartily suggest the fried white fish livers, a white fish sandwich, and a Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss at the Village Inn in Cornucopia, and an exploration of the beach off Quarry Road in Port Wing. If you do, you'll make sure you get back......
posted by lstanley at 7:48 AM on February 19


"Undoubtedly you are talking about Madeline Island right off of Bayfield."

It was Sand Island, over to the west side of the islands. Currently Madeline is the only one that would make sense, it's the only one left with an actual working town, but my dad (and grandparents, aunts, uncles) split time between living on Sand Island and in Bayfield back in the 50s and 60s.

I've never seen any of the Apostle Islands caves frozen in person, but I've walked through some in the summer...I bet it's easier (and from these pics, amazing to look at) when they're ice.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:49 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


nevercalm: Well, now I have a trip to contemplate. Meetup?

FWIW, I did a quick Google maps calculation on how long it would take to drive there from NYC (only 21 hours!) and showed it to the BF. "Let's go!" Hell, I'm not working for the moment, so I'm always threatening a roadtrip.

The current ice coverage on the Great Lakes is the most since 1994: Eponysterical, Seymour Zamboni.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:03 AM on February 19


My cousin was up there and posted pictures on FaceBook. I love Lake Superior, and the pictures were amazing.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:16 AM on February 19


I am going to blame social media but about 10 years ago when the lake was frozen I went out to the ice caves and was alone for two days. No one else out there and had them all to myself. On a weekend. Now with Facebook etc they are getting over 10,000 visitors over weekends.

I spend a lot of time sea kayaking the Apostle Islands and many of the islands have sea caves. Squaw Bay on the mainland is nice, but the real show is out on Devil's Island ten miles offshore.

I'm looking forward to the summer when the islands are again mostly empty.
posted by misterpatrick at 8:30 AM on February 19


My boyfriend's dad . . . told us how he and his siblings would have to ski across the lake to get to school.

Uphill both ways, into a headwind (ditto), in the dark, barefoot, carrying his baby sister?
 
posted by Herodios at 9:27 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I went up to see the ice caves a few weeks ago and had a great time. We also drove across the 2 mile long ice road to Madeline Island just so I can say I've driven on a Great Lake. That was also fun, but when I stopped half way to take pictures, the ice started making lots of scary noises under my car. I know it's several feet thick, but when they tell you to drive at your own risk and the ice looks like this under your car, it's a little unsettling.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:32 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Squaw Bay on the mainland is nice,

Fwiw, no longer called that, as squaw can pretty pejorative. Mawikwe bay is the current nomenclature.
posted by edgeways at 10:07 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


"Uphill both ways, into a headwind (ditto), in the dark, barefoot, carrying his baby sister?"

When we were on Sand Island last fall we saw a pictorial info board that the NPS had put up by the remains of the foundation of the island's old school house, that had a picture of my aunt wearing what looked like downhill skis pushing herself across the frozen lake to attend classes at the high school in Bayfield. All I could think was, skiing isn't as fun when the ground is totally flat and at the end of it is school...
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:36 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Presumably they were cross-country skis, at least.
posted by maryr at 11:08 AM on February 19


Incredible!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:34 AM on February 19


And all it took was sufficient global warming to wreck the jet stream and bring part of the polar vortex well south of where it should've been!

No. This was historically normal weather. It's been the last decade, when high pressures off the polar vortex were not making it south to the Great Lakes, that's been unusual.

I suspect that if it hadn't been for global warming, this winter would have been as bad as 1977-1978 and 1978-1979 were.

Still been a winter, true. But people screaming on how this is new just haven't been around here long enough, and those who had been wondering what winter we'd been moving away from? Well, it's this winter, back when it happened at least three years out of four.

One year out of 10 is a huge change.
posted by eriko at 1:02 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


I am so excited about this, and also so bitter.

My husband and I went to Bayfield last winter for a weekend, specifically so we could go to these ice caves. Nobody we knew had ever heard of them. It was going to be awesome. But then we got there, and it wasn't safe to hike out to the caves because the lake ice was too thin. Sigh. We still had a nice, cozy time hanging out in the 3 restaurants/bars that were actually open in Bayfield, but the caves had been the whole point of making the trip. I was pretty disappointed.

Cut to this year, and it seems like everyone is going to the darn caves, and we don't have a free weekend to go.

I try really hard in my life to just be happy for other people's happiness, but this is driving me crazy. Every local news story is talking about the caves, I think I even heard it mentioned on a national radio program today, and every 5th photo on my facebook news feed is of somebody I know who hates the outdoors posing with giant icicles. So frustrating. I know I should not be sad about this, but it's hard.

Incidentally, when we were driving across the ice to Madeleine Island last year (because that section of the ice was plenty thick), I learned that you're supposed to keep your windows down and seatbelts off in case you break through. You know, to make it easier to escape the sinking vehicle. You'd think a lifelong Minnesotan would have heard that before, but it was news to me. It sort of seems like once you're planning to sink you should maybe just not drive on the ice, but of course we did it anyway.
posted by vytae at 4:56 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


I have a... thing... about going out on frozen water. Like a phobia, it seems, as this photoset made my palms sweat and, regardless of how many people were so cavalierly exploring those ice caves, I was just nope nope noping my way through to the aurora.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:46 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Well, I guess the fur is real, but there's something about the faces that makes me think they're artificial.

Nah, that's what real ones look like.
posted by codswallop at 6:58 PM on February 19


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