Thursday, November 27, 2014

Presque Island Snowshoe--Post 1

Yesterday I visited with my friend, Helen Riley, in Marquette to go snowshoeing.  The drive from Grand Marais to Marquette was not too bad, but about half the way the roads were either snow covered or icy.

We headed over to Presque Island and snowshoed for an hour and a half around the island, including up and down the center ridge.  There is certainly more elevation change on this little island than you would expect.

As we passed by the iron ore dock, there was one freighter tied up.

From the parking lot on Presque Island, I captured the photo below with the end of the freighter  and the Superior Dome in the background.

Helen turning up the nature trail that cuts up and across the center ridge of the island.

Before the rain last weekend, Marquette received as much or more snow than Grand Marais.  Some of the snow melt and rain formed hundreds of pools that are now frozen.

Ice close up....

Snowshoeing the ridge....

Local residents...


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Frozen Sucker River

Yesterday Lois Fite and I snowshoed through the School Forest and along the north side of the Sucker River past the bridge.

A couple of photos from the bridge.....

Another photo of the river along the way....

We snowshoed to the wide bend in the Sucker.  This is the first place that my kids caught Brook Trout.

Lois checking out the river...

Some of the trees are barely hanging on....

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Biggest Snowstorms of All TIme

As the snow is again falling in Grand Marais, I was curious: what are the biggest snowstorms of all time?   I found a webpage Most likely this web page will have to be updated given the snow storm that hit western New York last week.

Blizzard of March 1888

This storm hit the northeastern U.S.  Some areas in New York received almost 60 inches (1.5 m) of snow.  However, with winds of 80 mph (128.7 kph). drifts developed up to 50 feet tall!  The storm also killed 400 people, including 100 who were on ships out at sea.

Storm of March 1993

NOAA photo

The same area in the eastern U.S. was hit by a tremendous storm in March of 1993.  This massive storm affected a wider area than any other storm in recorded history. Snow piled up from eastern Canada to Alabama, including in at least 26 states.  Not only did a lot of snow fall (including up to 50 inches (1.27 m) in the mountainous areas in the Appalachians and Catskills), but 70 mph winds were seen in most of the eastern U.S. with winds up to 100 mph in certain locals.  The storm killed 270 people.  Meteorologists measured the storm as being the equivalent of a category three hurricane.

Storm of 2006

 A blizzard requires sustained wind speeds above 35 mph (56.3 kph) and visibility under 500 feet (152.4 meters)The storm of 2006 did not meet this specification, but it did paralyse New York City.

The weather station at New York's Central Park Zoo recorded a total of 26.9 inches (68.3 cm) of snow from the storm. That total equals the greatest snowfall in New York City recorded history.

 Lhunze County, Tibet -- 2008

Tibet has the world's tallest mountains, including Mount Everest.  In 2008 a powerful winter storm hit the region.  Although the region is used to cold weather, it usually does not receive a lot of snow, other than on the tops of the mountains.  Most of the mountain passes usually remain open all year long.  However, in October of 2008 a storm dropped up to six feet of snow (1.5 m).  Many buildings collapsed and at least seven people were killed.

Mount Shasta, Calif. -- 1959

In 1959, a storm dumped a huge amount of snow on Mount Shasta, Calif. The 189 inches (4.8 m) of snow recorded at the Mount Shasta Ski Bowl is the largest snowfall from a single storm in North America [source: NOAA].

Bill Koch:
Caia Cupito and Ore-Cal RC&D:

Monday, November 24, 2014

All About Stromatolites

Today's blog posting is about stromatolites.  These are layered rocks that form as bio-chemical accretionary structures when microbial mats of cyanobacteria  trap, bind and cement sedimentary grains.  These mounds form along shallow ocean coastlines.  As the organic mat grows, waves and tidal actions move sediments to cover the mat.  The living organisms grow up to access sunlight, which fuels their photosynthesis.  Scientists believe that sstromatolites were the first organisms to evolve on Earth, providing ancient records of life on Earth by fossil remains which date from more than 3.5 billion years ago. They peaked about 1.25 billion years ago and subsequently declined in abundance and diversity, so that by the start of the Cambrian they had fallen to 20% of their peak.

Scientists at first thought that stromatolites were long since extinct.  However, in the late 1950s live stromatolites were found in Sharks Bay, Australia.  Live stromatolites have also been found in the Bahamas, Brazil, Mexico, and a few other locations.  Despite the fact that over 99 percent of species that have ever lived on our planet are extinct, stromatolites were the first organism to evolve and they are still here.

Live stromatolites in Sharks Bay, Australia...

 Live stromatolites in the Bahamas.

Last year I was able to purchase actual stromatolite mounds that have not been metamorphosed.  These are from Morocco.  I kept one and sold the rest.

While hiking in the Grand Canyon, I spotted this stromatolite boulder along side of Bright Angel Creek around a half mile north of Phantom Ranch.  I checked with the park ranger and confirmed my identification.

While visiting friends in western Wisconsin, I spotted the stromatolite boulder from across the yard.  It looks remarkably similar to the boulder I saw in the Grand Canyon.

 I purchased the stromatolite below from a collection.  The origin was not identified, but it looks like some of the stromatolite fossils from the Pacific Northwest.

Here is a USB microscope photo of the above stromatolite.

In many cases the stromatolitic remains metamorphosed into rock.  There is a cliff in Harvey, MI (near Marquette) that is solid fossil remains.

Another example of metamorphosed stromatolites is Mary Ellen Jasper from Minnesota.  Here are some photos of specimens along with some USB microscope camera pictures.

Paul Harrison,
Vincent Poirier,

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sucker River Snowshoe and Muskrat

Yesterday Jamey joined Lois and I for a snowshoe along the Sucker River.  It was a warm late afternoon with temperatures in the mid 30s and no wind.  We drove around five miles east of town, turned onto a side road, parked along the side of the road next to the river, and snowshoed south.

The river is beautiful right now with ice forming out from the banks, colored by the tannins in the water.

It is easy to see the amount of snow as well as the accumulation from different snow storms on top of downed trees.

Then Jamey spotted the muskrat.  I could not see the critter without my camera zoom, but I was able to get this shot from around 250 feet away.

We carefully moved up a bit and I took a few more photos.  The muskrat was cleaning himself.  I took LOTS of photos and narrowed it down the best I could. 

According to the webpage, The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), the only species in genus Ondatra.  It is a medium-sized semiaquatic rodent native to North America, and is an introduced species in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The muskrat is found in wetlands over a wide range of climates and habitats. It has important effects on the ecology of wetlands, and is a resource of food and fur for humans.

The muskrat is the largest species in the subfamily Arvicolinae, which includes 142 other species of rodents, mostly voles and lemmings. 

The adult muskrat is about 40–70 cm (16–28 in) long, half of that is the tail, and weighs from 0.6–2 kg (1.3–4.4 lb).  Muskrats spend much of their time in the water and are well suited for their semiaquatic life. They can swim under water for 12 to 17 minutes. Their bodies, like those of seals and whales, are less sensitive to the buildup of carbon dioxide than those of most other mammals. They can close off their ears to keep the water out. Their hind feet are semiwebbed, although in swimming, their tails are their main means of propulsion

Muskrats are covered with short, thick fur which is medium to dark brown or black in color, with the belly a bit lighter (countershaded); as the age increases, it turns a partly gray in color. The fur has two layers, which helps protect them from the cold water. They have long tails covered with scales rather than hair and, to aid them in swimming, are slightly flattened vertically, which is a shape that is unique to them.  When they walk on land, their tails drag on the ground, which makes their tracks easy to recognize.

Muskrats normally live in groups consisting of a male and female pair and their young. During the spring, they often fight with other muskrats over territory and potential mates. Many are injured or killed in these fights. Muskrat families build nests to protect themselves and their young from cold and predators. In streams, ponds or lakes, muskrats burrow into the bank with an underwater entrance. These entrances are 6–8 inches wide. In marshes, push-ups are constructed from vegetation and mud. These push-ups are up to three feet in height. In snowy areas, they keep the openings to their push-ups closed by plugging them with vegetation, which they replace every day. Some muskrat push-ups are swept away in spring floods and have to be replaced each year. Muskrats also build feeding platforms in wetlands.  Plant materials make up about 95% of their diets, but they also eat small animals, such as freshwater mussels, frogs, crayfish, fish, and small turtles.

Sunset through the trees...

Jamey made us a nice little fire and we took a break to have a glass of port.

What a nice snowshoe it was.