Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ISLAND STAVKIRKE - a new book





Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Friday, Aug. 18, my latest book (cover shown here) will be finished and ready for pick-up at the Worzalla Printing facility in Stevens Point.

Assuming all goes well on Friday, I plan on Saturday at the Island Fair to have a table for the initial sales of this book.  After that event, they will be made available at Fair Isle Books and at the Island Ferry Terminal, in addition to several outlets on the Peninsula.

This book, with many photos that demonstrate the conception, building and use of the church, in addition to descriptive text, is intended to be a commemorative book.  As such, it will have historic, informational and entertainment value that should make it a local, bookshelf "classic."

The Island's Stavkirke was a major project for a small Lake Michigan Island congregation, and, essentially, a community project.  The dedication of this structure as a church was held on August 4, 1995, and from that point on it took on significance beyond that of a building of mere historical interest.  It has been viewed and used for worship and meditation by many thousands of people since it was built.

Photos and documents help illustrate the construction techniques and the workmanship involved in the Stavkirke, and text by contributors helps relate this church to others like it that were built in Norway over 800 years ago.

As a commemorative book privately published (96 pages - $20.00 retail), a portion of each sale will go to the Trinity Lutheran Church Stavkirke Fund, for future maintenance and improvements of the building and grounds.

Copies of Island Stavkirke may also be ordered online at:  RichardPurinton.com

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fifth Annual Literary Festival




Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The bookmark for September's Literary Festival (shown here) features a painting by David Friedrich, "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog."

The theme for this year's festival, now in its fifth year, is "Exploring Frontiers, Real and Imagined."

The authors and poets who will be featured in presentations will use this theme as a stepping off point for discussion and selected readings.  There are few ways in which we can be so easily, quickly and thoroughly transported than through the written word.  Readers will find this year's experience will further stimulate their appetite for reading, for learning, and finding something new and surprising within a book's covers.

The reverse side of the bookmark features names of the main authors and their featured book.   Wisconsin's Poet Laureate, Kimberly Huston, and Door County's Poet Laureate, Sharon Auberly (their books are not shown). They'll read and talk about their poetry Saturday evening following dinner.

One challenge faced by the committee each year is to provide a meaningful program, improve on the previous years' experiences, and yet not overly complicate the weekend of events.  Logistically, there are challenges, but the outline for 2017 looks like attendees will enjoy an excellent program.  The many tasks and details are addressed through the input of a diverse, talented committee headed by Helene Meyer, whose ideas and inspiration led her to launch the first Island Literary Festival.  Helene, along with many others, strives to keep the festival program interesting, vital and worthy, in what she has often described as an "intimate gathering of readers and writers."

I'm not one to read each listed book of the featured authors, but I've recently ordered "Death and Life of the Great Lakes" by Dan Egan, based on a strong, positive review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, titled, "Nor Any Drop to Drink?: Why the Great Lakes Face a Murky Future."   Egan works as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and his work on Lake Michigan water topics has often been featured in the pages of that newspaper.  Egan has family connections in Egg Harbor.

Having observed Lake Michigan's water qualities as a sailor and ferryman, and knowing something of the problems that denigrate the qualities of this lake, I will be especially interested to read his book and to learn more about what is happening to the Great Lakes as a whole, both the good and the bad.  As an example, it wasn't many years ago that commercial fishing was a major economic factor in Northern Door County.  That's completely changed, and in a rather short time.  Forty years ago, there were between 40 and 80 boxes of fish, almost daily.  Now its rare to see any fish being shipped to commercial markets.  Why is that?  

Egan once interviewed me at the Ferry Office, and I believe his questions then dealt with piers, man-made structures built on the public lake bed, and how these structures might change water flow and quality.   In providing a ferry service, we need to connect floating vessels to solid land at several points, and piers are essential to the transport of people and vehicles, along with break walls that further protect the pier.  These structures are robust and substantial in dimension and mass in order to withstand heavy seas and moving ice.  I was a bit defensive then to Egan's questioning.  But, I'm interested now in learning if he promotes a viewpoint on limiting waterfront construction, or if I've changed my own point of view on that same topic.

In any case, as an island community we should be open to learning about Great Lakes water quality, even when we don't always agree with proposed solutions.



Festival registration for 2017 is $125 ($112.50 if you register prior to August 1st).  There will also be workshops, held on Friday, Sept. 21,  poetry and writing workshops by featured writers.  Workshop fee is $75, but then $65 for each additional workshop selected.

In order to register, checks can be made out to:  TPAC/Washington Island Literary Festival, PO Box 136, Washington Island, WI 54246.  Or, if you're on the Island, drop by the Fair Isle Book Store and you can register with Deb Wayman, located next to the Island Post Office and Red Cup.
  
-  Dick Purinton

Thursday, May 11, 2017

ARCHIVES WELCOMES GISLASON DESCENDANTS



Members of our group posed beneath the flag of Iceland in the Thordarson
artifacts room of the Boat House on Rock Island.  From left:  Craig Welt,
Laurie Latimer, Amy Welt, Jeannie Hutchins and special guest,
Almar Grimsson of Iceland.





Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Nearly 150 years ago, in 1870, four men from Iceland came to Washington Island, encouraged by William Wickman who purchased Island property here and offered the men the opportunity to work for him in his woods.

One of the men was Jon Gislason, who began working in the Danish outpost in Eyrarbakki at age 14, and who had come to know fellow store employee Wickman.  At the time, Eyrarbakki was a small seaport, but a major shipment point for exporting wool and cod from Iceland's southern coast.  It was Wickman who, removed to Milwaukee a year or so later, encouraged his Icelandic friends to join him in America.   These young men might have gone on to live productive and relatively comfortable lives in Iceland, but it was the adventure as much as anything that encouraged them to leave their homeland and seek new opportunities.

This past Tuesday, the Washington Island Archives held an Open House in the Rutledge Room of the Community Center, welcoming members of the community to learn more about the Archives, but foremost, to greet three guests who are descendants of Jon Gislason.

Almar Grimsson, Iceland, recently traveled to Grand Fork, North Dakota, to attend a convention celebrating Icelandic roots in North America.  He's been to the U.S. and Canada numerous times, tracing his ancestry and meeting with others of Icelandic immigrant descent. A common goal is to maintain strong ties with Iceland, the mother country, its history and culture.  Grimsson then drove from North Dakota to Washington Island for his first ever visit here.  He met up with two Gislason cousins of his, Amy Welt, joined by her husband, Craig, of Iowa City, Iowa, and Laurie Latimer, Evanston, Illinois.

Archivist Steve Reiss prepared a Gislason genealogical tree, based on information available in the Island Archives, and with help from Jeannie Hutchins and others, connections to Jon Gislason were made.  In Almar Grimsson's case, his great grandfather was a brother to Jon, and as a Lutheran minister, slightly older than Jon, that brother chose to remain in Iceland.  Amy is a great-granddaughter of Arthur Gislason, and Laurie is a great-granddaughter of Esther (respectively, brother and sister to Lawrence Gislason.)  Island residents may remember best Lawrence and Ruth Gislason who continued to run the Gislason family store in Jensenville, situated along the shores of Detroit Harbor.  This building later became the Island's first Community Center.  It was later demolished, and there is a sandy playground today where it once stood.

After closing their store in the 1930s, Lawrence and Ruth then sailed on Great Lakes vessels as a couple, for a time.  Gislason Beach, across the road from the present day Red Barn facility and adjacent to the Shipyard Marina, was the site of Gislason pier, once used by freighting vessels for the shipment of potatoes and lumber, and for receiving incoming products and visitors around the turn of the century, in the early 1900s.

One daughter of Jon and Augusta Gislason, Evaline, married Ben Johnson ("Hotel Benny" as he became known) who built Hotel Washington next door to the Gislason residence and boarding house.  It was at this same boarding house that a young couple, Julianna and C. H. Thordarson, for several years stayed when visiting the Island. This was before Thordarson purchased his property on Rock Island.  At the time, Julianna's mother and father lived on Washington Island.

Jeannie Hutchins adds meaning to what seemed like a mile-long
list of family names provided by Archivist Steve Reiss.
All named are descendants of Jon Gislason, one of
four earliest Icelandic immigrants to settle here.

  


On hand during Grimsson's visit, and most helpful in sorting out the often confusing family lines of descent (not to mention the many other associations and connections made in a small community over the decades) was Jeannie Hutchins.

Jeannie is both an Archives volunteer and a volunteer docent at the Jacobsen Museum, and she can claim perhaps the closest association of any Island person to the Thordarson family.

It was Jeannie's Aunt Helga (Lindal) who married the Thordarson's oldest son, Dewey.  Dan Lindal, Jeannie's father, answered an ad placed in the early 1920s by Thordarson in an Icelandic newspaper published in Gimli, near Winnipeg, Canada, and Lindal (and later his sister, Helga) came to Washington Island, working first as a foreman on Rock Island for C. H. Thordarson, and then as an Island fisherman.

Jeannie (Lindal) Hutchins poses with the traditional
 Icelandic wedding dress of Julianna Thordarson,
on display at the Thordarson Boat House.


My first association with Almar was through filling his email order for a book about Thordarson and Rock Island.  Several exchanges and several years later, and serving as an Island Archives representative, I offered to prepare an agenda of activities during his two-day stay that might prove meaningful in connecting with his family Icelandic heritage, and also with the Rock Island and Thordarson history.

Looking back at the opportunity to visit with each of our guests, I believe we had a most rewarding time, during which new bits of information and history about the Gislason family or Rock Island came to light.

Casual conversation revealed that Almar and Mary Jo are also cousins, through a Dane named Knudson who came to live in Iceland.  Shown photos from our recent, 2015 family trip to Iceland, Almar recognized several faces, including   Mary Jo's Gudmundsen cousins, Dora and Bjorg Thorsteinsdottir, who were also his relations.  So, in this way our visiting was both enlightening and entertaining.

Grimsson, who is a retired pharmacist, is also a past president of the Icelandic National League of Iceland. He became actively interested in pursuing general Icelandic genealogy and emigration, and in particular his own family ties, approximately 20 years ago.  But until a colleague asked him a specific question about Washington Island, he was not aware of the Jon Gislason family connection, or of the importance of Washington Island's place in the minds of fellow Icelanders.

This Island is considered the first, true settlement location by most Icelanders (although there was also a large group who left from southern Iceland in the 1840s, following a Danish Mormon leader to Spanish Fork, Utah).  The arrival and subsequent settling here by those first four men then became a wave of emigration to North America - many settled on the plains of Canada - that spanned approximately 1870-1914.

Having gained deeper knowledge about his family and this island community - the one Icelandic settlement location he had yet to visit in the United States - Grimsson hopes to return again some day, along with his wife.

Welcoming Almar Grimsson (center) at the Archives Open House
Tuesday, May 9, were Karen Jess, Connie Sena and Judie Yamamoto.


Wednesday, May 10, we stopped at points of interest that aren't typically open to visitors until later in May. We were accompanied by videographers Brett Kosmider and Andrew Phillips, of Peninsula Filmworks, LLC.  Their company is associated with Peninsula Publishing and Distribution Company and was commissioned by the Door County Visitor's Bureau to produce short video segments on Door County culture and history.  These productions, approximately five or six minutes in length, play on the DCVB website. The topic chosen by Phillips and Kosmider to air in June will describe Washington Island's Icelandic connections.

I received Andrew's email contact out of the blue, at about the same time Almar's plane touched down at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.  Through this coincidental timing, we linked up and were able to provide timely opportunities for them to witness Icelandic connections as they unfolded.  We look forward with interest to viewing the results of their interviews and photography, based on our day together at various Island locations.

*        *         *

For the fine welcome given our Gislason relations guests, I'd like to thank Archives committee members and volunteers for helping to prepare the Open House event.

Also, I must give special thanks to Rock Island State Park Supervisor, Michelle Hefty, who allowed us the opportunity to visit the Thordarson Boat House prior to its official opening date.  And to Terri Moore, who prepared the pioneer buildings and opened up especially for us at the Island Farm Museum.  And Jeannie Hutchins, both for knowledge shared over the days during our guests' visit, and also for the private opening of the Jacobsen Museum at Little Lake to see artifacts there.

Each of these above-named facilities, as well as the Stavkirke, display facets of Island history and culture, and each helps to educate and interpret Washington Island's development as a community over several generations.  These institutions become important stops for Island visitors, but also for residents, especially during the "warm months" of the tourism year.  

-  Dick Purinton

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

CATCHING UP






Detroit Harbor, Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Realizing that it's been nearly two months since my last posting, this blog will touch on a variety of topics.

The photo that begins this column is of the Stavkirke when folks gathered for the Saturday evening Vigil Service, on the eve of Easter.

Rain had let up by this time and a light haze hung low over fields, but the temperature was moderate, in the 50s, making this a pleasant evening.

Inside the Stavkirke, electric baseboard heaters that were turned on well in advance helped warm the space.

I had a second reason for attending this service.  My goal was to obtain a few good photographs to include in a book I'm working on about the Island Stavkirke.   Low light photos, and photos of worship activities were shots I hoped to add as contrast to the many others that will appear in the book.

Photos will comprise the primary content, with text and comments made by those closely involved with its design, construction and use.  No exact publication date can yet be determined, but I'm hoping for a late June or July book launch, if all goes well.  Over 100 photos and illustrations, in color, will be featured, that reflect back twenty five years or more.

Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Alan Schaffmeyer led
the Vigil Service in the Stavkirke.  Dan Hansen (not shown)
helped lead musical selections by playing an electric keyboard.
(Note: Open flames are generally not permitted on the
Stavkirke grounds or in the church, but use of candles during
this special service is one exception.)


At my prompting, Steve Waldron also took photos that same evening, and his results with a quality Canon camera were far better than mine, both in composition and technical quality.  However, I'm saving Steve's photos for the book.  These photos should give you a sense, at least, of what the service was like with low candlelight, in a quiet setting (Quiet, except for the occasional squeak of floorboards and hymns that were sung).  

By coincidence, two of our grandsons, Aidan and Magnus Purinton, were baptized in the Stavkirke the following Saturday with family members present, a pleasant and intimate setting for their ceremony.

Increased, dedicated Stavkirke parking 

Last January a plan was announced by the Trinity Church Council to create a new parking lot for Stavkirke visitors.  By creating dedicated parking to the west of the Stavkirke, with entrance from Town Line Road, more spaces and safer access should result.  Currently, vehicles including buses and tour trams park wherever space is available along the Town Line Road, where already many vehicles may be found,  parked by those using Trinity's facilities.

A fund raising campaign was begun following January's approval by the Trinity congregation. To date, approximately $11,000 has been raised, with $25,000 being the stated goal.

In addition to the already donated dollars, a most generous offer was made by David Small, Island contractor, to provide excavation labor and equipment.  David's offer was accepted, with thanks, by the Church Council.

At this point, it seems certain that work can begin within the next several months.  Possibilities and choices now exist for an improved sidewalk surface (concrete vs. gravel or woodchips), plus the eventual need to blacktop the parking surfaces and driveway.  The $25,000 figure may be still be a conservative goal, given the long-term list of requirements.

Therefore, funds continue to be sought for this project.

Future parking lot diagram with entrance at Town Line Road.
Stavkirke is to the east (right) and Trinity Lutheran Church to the south
(bottom), across the road from the Stavkirke property.

The attached graphic shows a loop-style parking area that will undergo slight modifications prior to actual construction, to account for several existing, large spruce trees, but as a general plan it shows how the new parking design will look.  

Donations for the Stavkirke parking improvement can be made c/o:  Stavkirke Fund, Trinity Lutheran Church, 1763 Town Line Road, Washington Island,
Wisconsin 54246.  

Ferry Washington gets new wheels

In late November a loud "thunk" was heard by the crew of the Washington as the ferry backed toward the Island pier.  Afterward, the vessel's starboard shaft produced a profound shudder.  The noise and vibration was traced to the starboard propeller, resulting when one of the propeller blades came in contact with a sheet of steel that had been placed on the end of the pier to prevent loss of fill from the dock.  That sheet of steel, it is believed, came loose from the pier structure at an earlier juncture. It then lifted from the bottom with the suction and turbulence caused by prop wash, rising from the bottom enough to contact one of the blades.

The ferry was rendered inoperable following that incident, due to the significant vibration.  It was decided then to winterize the vessel and order a replacement propellers, with a dry docking scheduling for early spring, once the bay was ice-free.

Chris Swanson holds the broken
Washington propeller blade, weighing an
estimated 80 pounds.  Impact point that
separated blade from hub can be
on the left.


The subject blade shown here, and the steel sheet, were recovered by Hoyt Purinton, who dove to attach lines for retrieval.  While the remaining three of four blades appeared intact, consultation with propeller manufacturer Kahlenberg indicated that repair of this broken blade wouldn't be possible.  And. since propellers come as a matched pair, replacement with a new pair would be the best option. This necessitated several months lead time for production.

So, during the first week of April, with only mushy ice remaining in the lower bay, the Washington ran slowly on a single, port prop to Sturgeon Bay, where it was dry docked and new wheels were installed.  As it happened, stainless was quoted cheaper than nickel-bronze, so that the new propellers would be sturdier and more resistant to errant objects, such as deadheads, than the old set.  

In addition to propeller replacement, a U. S. Coast Guard, five-year hull inspection was also conducted ahead of the required due date.  This inspection activity is required for each ferry at five-year intervals, and doing so whenever a dry dock opportunity presents itself hopefully extends the time to the next required docking deadline.

Also, prior to this yard visit, it was determined that a slight widening of the stern ramp would facilitate the loading of long and large vehicles, such as semi trucks and trailers.    The ramp opening was therefore increased by one foot on each side - and the ramp leaves were widened accordingly - by moving of the uprights, hydraulic piping, and cable arrangement to accommodate this change.  Now repainted, the average traveler won't notice the change unless the area is examined closely for signs of metal work.  All such work, of course, requires both naval architect plan detail and U. S. Coast Guard approval prior to actual work being done.

With all work completed in approximately eleven days, the Washington sailed back to Detroit Harbor, where it was cleaned, touched-up and placed into service.

Antler hunting as a sport

What Island bucks lose over winter, antler hunters hope to find.

But such a search can be compared with looking for a needle in a haystack, with miles and miles of deer trails in the woods and no rhyme or reason to where an antler might be found.  Following predicted routes of deer travel may help increase the odds of finding an antler, but that is about the only helpful tip we can give readers.  Otherwise, it is luck + time spent searching.   

Hoyt Purinton enjoys hunting antlers in late winter, sometimes with his sons, as a winter or early-spring outdoor activity. It's also reason to get outdoors and walk in the woods during the time of year when other outdoor activities are at a low point.

Antlers found over a two-day period in spring by Hoyt Purinton.  Dark antler
at top shows signs of mice gnawing, and may have been in woods for a
full year or more.


Sometimes, Hoyt has learned, where one half might be discovered lying in snow, or among leaves, (depending on the time of winter or spring, and recent weather) the other half could be found nearby.  But there's no certainty, no rules.  Hoyt happens to possess a lucky eye, and he's often successful at locating antlers.  An antler dropped randomly by a buck can look much like dead cedar branches that litter the forest floor.  It's easy to walk right past despite keeping eyes trained on the ground.  A light snowfall can help by providing contrast, covering the otherwise dark ground. Too much snow will bury an antler, unless it is recently dropped or its tines are large enough to project upward.  

Losing antlers, beginning in January as a rule, happens when bucks renew antlers for the coming season.  A new set forces out the old, which then fall, more or less at random, when they're no longer attached to the deer's skull.  With rare exception, such as in an old or unhealthy buck, the new set will grow in larger and with more points added in each successive year.  Finding an antler with four, five or more significant points per antler may bode well for seeing trophy bucks in the coming year.

Why aren't antlers more commonly seen when strolling through the woods in summer, given the number of possible bucks on Washington Island?   Squirrels and mice like the mineral content and unless an antler is well-buried in debris, few antlers remain intact in the woods throughout a full year.   Another reason may be that we just aren't attuned to spotting them among the typical forest floor debris.

If you're interested and need advice, ask Hoyt or Kevin Krueger, both of whom enjoy antler hunting.

What to do with collected antlers is another question.  Hoyt displays dozens in his home and garage, given Kirsten's generous approval.  Artists and craftsmen (some of whom teach such crafts at Sievers School) incorporate them into a chandelier, lamp or piece of furniture.  If antlers are kept away from rodents, they will last indefinitely.

Get out in the woods and look!  

That's a wrap for this blog!  -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Crew members posed Wednesday, March 8, with stainless AJR "wheels" at
Island Ferry Terminal Building: (L to R) Front, Joel Gunnlaugsson; Con McDonald.
Back: Craig Krueger; Pete Nikolai; Hoyt Purinton; Erik Foss; Tully Ellefson;
Janet Hanlin; Bill Jorgenson; Bill Schutz; and Rich Ellefson.


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Yesterday a pair of stainless ice propellers were displayed near the Ferry Terminal front entrance.  These are spares that have been in storage since their purchase a little over a year ago.   Rather than continue to store them inside a workshop building, Joel Gunnlaugsson and Con McDonald got busy fabricating a stand on which the two wheels could be publicly displayed.

The propellers were purchased through Kahlengberg Bros. of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, long a provider of propellers, shafts and couplings in the commercial marine market.  Having the spares means, potentially, avoiding a wait of many months to get the right propellers, or propeller, should damage occur for any reason to the Arni J. Richter's current set.  Each propeller measures 66-inches in diameter, with a pitch of 42".  These are robust, "ice class" propellers, meaning the flukes and hub are built to withstand most reasonable ice work without incurring damage.  Yet, one never knows what can happen, and having a damaged propeller, while serious at any time, would result in utmost strain if it meant the Arni J. Richter was out of commission for any length of time in winter.  They were purchased as "insurance" for approximately the cost of a new luxury automobile.

Weighing an estimated #1500 each, they are not easily moved, and the stand that was fabricated in the shop by Joel and Con is equally sturdy, so the propellers become shiny yard art, and not a hazard for curious children.

Pair of Ice Class-C propellers:
bored, keyed for six-inch propeller shafts,
with anti-singing edges. *
Ready to install when/if the occasion arises.


*       *         *

When setting up this group photo, which I believe represents each of the crew who are engaged in  providing ferry service this winter, I was gently reminded there hadn't been a blog since late January.  It's nice to know that some people read them and keep track!  I'll have to improve on my habits, is all I can say.

The 2017 winter has managed to slide past us, almost, but not without giving us the extremes of snowstorms, near-record melting temperatures, icing conditions on trees and power lines, and just these past two days, storm-force winds.

Each scheduled ferry trip was made Tuesday and Wednesday, and according to Captain Bill Jorgenson, yesterday's trip (Wednesday's) went well.  Waves and spray in the door, but otherwise good docking in the westerly gusts at Northport.  Little-to-no ice remains in the upper Bay, except for a few strips of loose ice here and there, and in shallow shoreline indentations.  The Detroit Harbor west channel was starting to fill up with ice moving in from the shore beyond the entrance light, drifting along Willow Point near Rutledges.  It was Bill's observation that this ice might have left Gills Rock's harbor Tuesday, pushed by the then SSW winds toward Washington Island.

Heavy rains that preceded the wind knocked down nearly all evidence of snow and ice, on roads and in fields, but we've been at that juncture several times before this winter, only to have it covered in snow once again.  Maybe, this time we'll start to see the greening of spring and the beginning bloom of flowers.

It was the earliest we'd ever seen a snake out and about in mid-February, when Mary Jo nearly stumbled across a two-foot long, brown, northern water snake.  It was crawling along, more or less on the same path we were as we walked in the woods near our home.  This encounter occurred during one of those foggy, rainy periods, when snowbanks had been reduced to icy mounds, and the ground still had frost.  What inspired this 2-ft. snake to make an excursion at this time of winter when temperature was in the mid-30s?  More to the point, why did it choose to be seen by us, disturbing what we considered a winter's walk?  Mary Jo, who dislikes snakes and who responded by shrieking, has one more reason to believe that she seems to attract such creatures.

Spring break is about to begin for our Island Schools.  Tournament college basketball is already underway.  Indoors, those projects intended for completion during times of adverse winter weather need to move along more rapidly in order to be completed before summer.

-  Dick Purinton

*  Anti-singing edges are trailing blade edges beveled to reduce the "hum" or "singing," vibrations that occur when power load is taken off the propeller.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

JANUARY CROSSING 2017


This shot may look as though it was tweaked by photo-shopping, but not so.
Tim Graul took this photo at Northport Saturday, Jan. 7, after several days
of high winds added successive layers of frozen spray to the ferry's bow.



Washington Island, Wisconsin -

During the past month, we've had a mix:   mild weather; high winds and cold temperatures; a good snow cover of nearly a foot; then rain on top of fresh snow, followed a few hours later by plunging temperatures.   A bit of just about everything.

But, it's cold enough that the harbors and the bay have finally frozen over.  In just a week or so, most of upper Green Bay has seen sheets of ice, and this has changed the ferry operations for the better.  Prior to this week, the absence of ice led to freezing spray and icing on decks, enough so that a week ago only the morning ferry trip was made using the AJR.  The crew went to work trying to remove as much ice as possible, and as the wind subsided a bit, trips were resumed the following morning using the Robert Noble.   By afternoon, with the Island channel becoming choked with ice, the Arni J. Richter resumed operations.  It looks as though this will be the ferry for operations for the next several months.

Joel Gunnlaugsson on deck of Arni J. Richter at Northport Pier.
(Graul photo)


The absence of ice makes it easier, but only when there are moderate winds and temperatures.  Joel Gunnlaugsson is shown in on deck holding a long bar used for knocking away ice, but also for prying open the frozen bow ramp.   Those photos were taken by retired naval architect and designer of the Arni J. Richter, Tim Graul, who happened to take an afternoon ride up the peninsula to our Northport dock, where he found the ferry loaded and ready to depart.

This morning I rode the ferry to check on the work progress at the Northport terminal building.  I decided this might also be a good opportunity to take photos and video along the way.  The ice had built up considerably in the days since Saturday's crossing.  A field of 4-to-6 inch ice slid against the tripod legs Tuesday morning and created an ice shove, according to Erik Foss.  A good photographic opportunity, he suggested, after asking why there haven't been new blogs lately.

I used my iPhone camera to obtain video, which worked quite well.  But because the air temperature was only 14 degrees, it shut down on me shortly after passing the entrance light. As we headed into a stretch of open water on the back side of Plum Island, I headed for the engine room to warm and restart my phone.

The second purpose of my trip, to document the work being done at Northport, commenced when I centered the two fiberglass porta potties in my camera lens, in front of the terminal building.  It was a shot I hoped would get the message across for viewers of this blog, that public toilets in the building were no longer in service (in fact, they are no longer there!).  As I was about to snap this photo, the toilet door on the left opened slightly and a woman peeked out to find my camera trained in her direction.

No, I hadn't intended to take her photo as she exited the toilet, I said.  I was concerned she might get entirely the wrong idea.  While I awkwardly stumbled over my words of apology and took the photo of the pair of toilets with the terminal building in the background, as I had planned, another lady opened the door of the second unit.  Too late!



Yes, they said, the facilities lacked heat, and no, I didn't stick around to find out their names or where they were from (their husbands waited near their car, across the driveway.)

So, if anyone should wonder, these outdoor toilets are in working order (filled with anti-freeze, I assume) and they are placed there for use by the construction workers and the general public.  But my recommendation is that if you're traveling to or from Washington Island, then please consider using the toilets on the ferry when the opportunity presents itself.

As for construction progress, the former Northport restaurant kitchen is now framed in and well along to becoming space for the men's and women's toilets. A utility closest is nearby.   The newly enlarged lobby opens to the Visitor Information Center in two wide openings that will have glass doors.   The finished product is rather hard to feature or appreciate at this point, but workmen are actively remodeling this space so that in several months' time it can be reopened for the busier travel season.  In the meantime, your patience is appreciated.

Back on the Island

Several smaller, but important, projects have been taken on by the ferry crew.  In the office area, Con McDonald is refitting overhead flourescent lighting with LED lighting for energy savings.

Rows of many, small LED lights within a clear, plastic housing replaces the old fixture,
 a filament bulb that was screwed into a socket of the former masthead light housing.


On the Eyrarbakki, Joel is engaged with installing new LED navigational lights, along with a new lighting panel.  As required, the new lights, which look dramatically different from the ones they replace, incandescent bulb style-lighting, will also have a back-up feature, both in power source and in the bulbs themselves, should the primary set for some reason fail.

A century ago or less, many vessels had kerosene lamps behind magnification lenses, eventually changing over to electric navigational lights in brass and glass housing.  Moulded plastic housings eventually replaced the brass or steel housings, and so this step is just the latest in improved equipment. A new pilot house lighting control panel with a solid state board is being installed at the same time.

-  Dick Purinton


Thursday, December 15, 2016

DEGREES OF WINTER

Detroit Harbor shoreline following first major snowfall
of winter, about nine inches that fell Sunday, Dec. 11.
We've counted seven muskrat huts that were created
over the summer, now appearing as snow covered domes.


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Yes, it can be long, with overcast and sameness for many days, and confining.  But, if you feel good, like the fresh air and exercise - even limited exercise like brief walks to the bird feeder or mail box - then winter can also be a great time of the year to enjoy the outdoors.

Our mild December changed last weekend with snow, then single-digit cold.  Detroit Harbor froze with a light covering of ice in about three days' time.   High winds of Dec. 14 and 15 limited ferry trips due to icing conditions and strong seas.  Added to that mix was a thick blanket of steam hanging over the Door this morning, about the poorest visibility that can be encountered.

Potato Dock vantage point Wednesday, Dec. 14
as Arni J. Richter returns from Northport,
the only trip made that day.




Ferry Traveler Advisory:   In a few days a remodeling project at the Northport Terminal is expected to begin.  Carlson-Erickson Builders will reconfigure the lobby as per plans drawn by Mike Kickbush, thereby opening up the visitor information and lobby area, moving toilets to the former restaurant kitchen space, and all-in-all making this 30-year old facility into what we believe will be a more useful and functional terminal and visitor center.

Essentially the same view, same time of day as the photo captured Wednesday.
Six degree temperature, strong NW winds with rolling sea and steam.  Crossing
took nearly twice as long as normal, in an effort by the
operator to avoid accumulation of ice on deck.


At a certain point plumbing fixtures within the building will be disconnected and will no longer be available for public use, until such time as new facilities are complete and the project is nears final stages in late winter.  In the meantime, portable toilets will be provided in lieu of indoor plumbing, but we also realize that in below freezing weather this option may not appeal to modern-day sensitivities.   We suggest planning your trip ahead - as much as is possible - and that ferry travelers utilize the heads provided onboard the ferry Arni J. Richter.  Sorry for your inconvenience.  We believe the planned improvements, when completed, will be appreciated.  Thanks in advance for your understanding.

And the above reminds me of a humorous toilet joke that Arni used to enjoy telling. His parents, Carl and Maggie Richter, at a certain point had indoor plumbing installed in their home.  The new facility was located in an area formerly dedicated as kitchen space.  Carl liked to say that he could never get used to going to the bathroom in the kitchen.

Maybe this saying will "hold water" for those who in the future will visit the remodeled Northport bathrooms in the old kitchen space.

-  Dick Purinton  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ABUNDANT LIFE IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC


Arrival at South Georgia after approximately three
days sailing from the Falklands. Whales, dolphins and
seabirds are seen in increasing numbers as the
convergence zone is entered.


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Note:   Keep in mind Saturday, Dec. 17, 4:00 pm, when I'll present slides and a short video of the trip Thor and I took to the Falklands and South Georgia.  I think you'll be both entertained and educated about life in the Southern Latitudes as we briefly experienced it on our recent Lindblad voyage.  Donations at the door will be accepted in support of the Trueblood Performing Art Center.

Studying atlas pages of the southern ocean in the southern hemisphere, it might be assumed there is nothing but ocean, a vast emptiness.

A sign in the waterfront park in Ushuaia, Argentina, reinforces that belief.  It reads, in Spanish, "fin del mundo."  End of the world.  But that belief might be a hold-over from several centuries ago when little was known about what existed in the Southern Ocean, and Cape Horn was the end of civilization as was then known.   It's true that from the Falkland Islands latitude of 54 degrees south there are few land forms, but a good deal of ice and cold ocean, and that human habitation is sparse for reasons of climate.  But during those centuries, discoveries were made of new lands, of islands, and the Antarctic Continent.  We can say today that although it is a very remote, and often hostile, place for humans, there is an abundance of bird and sea life.  And this is due, in large part, to the cold ocean waters flowing northward in the Antarctic, creating rich food sources for these animals.

Elephant seals (above), fur seals and penguins
provide a great source of color and entertainment
ashore.  


Man quickly adapted and endured harsh conditions found in the southern ocean for reasons of profit.  Sealing and whaling soon became major activities that drew men and ships to this area in the 19th and 20th centuries So did the quest for science.  Science - the study of the earth's magnetism, meteorology, biology, geography, geology, oceanography and mapping - was often the stated reason that aided in securing expedition funding from government and private sources.  And even today, science remains the higher calling,  often an underlying reason for planting flags and expanding the empire.  Antarctica, the continent, is a vast area with outposts of national influence, rights respected by a treaty that has thus far encouraged participating nations with interests there to coexist while learning more about this least populated land.

Industrial scrap in the form of old barrels and oil tanks clutter
the small beach area in Godthul Harbor.  We hiked beyond this,
to the hilltops, for great harbor views.


Our voyage led us "below the convergence zone," where the cold waters of the continent meet warmer ocean waters, where there is found increased ocean habitat, and unique island climates.  Thor and I traveled, therefore, to the Antarctic, but not to Antarctica, the continent itself.  (Maybe another time!)

While the southern oceans may appear desolate, they are an extremely rich source of food for bird and sea mammals, and this in itself becomes an attractive magnet for today's so-called "expedition cruising," whereby paying shipboard guests are invited to observe, photograph and learn about the ecosystem of the cold Antarctic waters.  (And I would add, to learn about the human history of this area.)

Convergence zone where cold Antarctic ocean
waters meet warmer currents indicated by green 

line.  South Georgia falls within that zone; Falkland
Islands lie just outside the zone, a water
temperature difference of 5-10 degrees F.


The ocean waters of the convergence sustain remarkable bird and mammal numbers.  Some of these species are still bouncing back from sealing and whaling days, when industrial processing sites were  constructed in South Georgia's protected harbors.  Whales were found swimming in adjacent waters, and something like 175,000 whales were killed over a 60-year period, at the height of South Georgia's whaling days.  I was surprised to learn that this existed into the 1960s, and ended only when the practice of shore processing proved unprofitable, and whales were further than the immediate South Georgia waters.  Whaling continued, but with self-contained factory ships.

Penguin colonies found in the bays of South Georgia range from several hundred to the thousands.  The fur seal, once thought nearing extinction (300-500 were estimated) when sealers took pelts, are now believed to be 3-5 million in number and growing.  In fact, we were told that bird nesting grounds on cliffs and hillsides that surround South Georgia's harbors may now be threatened by the fur seals who use the same areas when they come ashore to mate and raise their young.   No one seems to know what the right balance ought to be, in terms of fur seal numbers.

Our ship, the National Geographic Explorer, dropped anchor fifteen times or so in different harbors during our five days in South Georgia waters.  Three times we anchored and and went ashore near rusting, abandoned equipment or buildings remnants of an industry that was fairly booming just a little over 50 years ago.   Except for Grytviken, which was perhaps the largest whale processing site on South Georgia, now cleaned up of dangerous debris and open as a museum, the other whaling or sealing historical sites must be observed by visitors (who first register with the local authorities) from a distance of 200 meters or greater, for safety reasons.  Grytviken and the other whaling or sealing processing sites were licensed from the British by Norwegian companies, from approximately the early 1900s into the mid-1960s.

King Penguins and seals coexist on this section of beach in St. Andrews Bay.   


When stepping ashore in a harbor to visit, one of the ship's naturalists' first tasks is to find a beachhead occupied by only a few seals.   The sheer numbers of elephant seals and fur seals found along the shore are such that this isn't always easily done, especially where a beach narrows or is hemmed by hills on either side.   Cones are sometimes set down to indicate a safe walking route inland, up the beach and away from the waterfront frequented and claimed by seals.  But, of course, orange cones mean nothing if the seals have a notion to move to a new spot.

From a vantage point a few hundred feet removed from the water's edge, passengers can observe in relative safety.  Nevertheless, fur seals are still found even hundreds of yards back from the beach, lying amongst tall humps of tussac grass, and they must be respected for both their speed and their teeth should they become aggressive.

It's hard not to find fascination with the sounds and motions of the male elephant seals as they posture, belch and grunt, challenging one another, and with the females and their pups.  Just the bulk of such huge animals that simply flop down on the beach after months of continuous activity in the ocean is impressive.

Amongst the seals can be seen a scattering of penguins of various types, with more penguins found in hillside colonies or further upland where they might inhabit the sometimes relatively flat, expansive beach areas.   Here, fresh water glacial streams may empty into bays.  In St. Andrews Bay, the largest single colony of King Penguins may easily exceed half a million penguins, scattered about within a half-mile or so radius of the beach.  These numbers are made up of parents and their chicks, molting penguins, and birds that may not yet be ready for mating.

Grytviken, a former whale processing port, is now a museum village with post office and
museum display buildings, staffed by approximately 24 residents who represent
the U. K. Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.  The 

Territory derives income from commercial fishing licensing and tourism.
(Elephant seal, upper left, found a spot to his liking between sections of pipes.)

You may wonder, as I did:  Is there a smell associated with so many krill and fish-eating birds and seals in one place?   Yes, somewhat, but it's very slight as compared with, say, a midwestern hog farm or a dairy barn where cows have been kept indoors.  Comparatively, this odor is nothing at all.  Wearing rubber boots for coming ashore in a Zodiac, you may expect to step into, onto, or over greenish puddles of poop and feathers, residue from the birds, and I would estimate the Ecoli count in the waters adjacent to the beach is high.   But then, we weren't there for the swimming.

During our days spent at sea, and every evening before dinner whether at sea or not, presentations were given by several of the ten naturalists on board.  This was an excellent way to learn about what we might encounter in the coming days, and it also served as great reinforcement of what we experienced earlier that same day.  Slides, short videos, and summations highlighted things we might otherwise have missed, or misunderstood.

I would add that each day from about 6 to 7pm, the wrap-up session coincided with "cocktail hour." Afterward, each naturalist, the ship's doctor, and even the ship's captain, made the rounds of the lounge seating area with trays to pick up our empty glasses and plates as we headed off to dinner.  This practice, led by the captain, is designed not to impress passengers, but rather to instill a sense equality in duty and a willingness to serve.  But I was impressed, nonetheless, by the camaraderie that existed among these professionals, many of whom would soon join the paying guests as evening table mates for  dinner and conversation.  These examples, and the standing Lindblad "open bridge" policy, add a welcoming closeness in shipboard experience, unexpected and unique compared with cruises we've taken on much larger ships of larger name brand companies.

Sale of stamps, commemorative coins, books and other
souvenir items is a source of South Georgia revenue, helping
to maintain government staffing and management there.




There remains much to tell about, so I hope to see you at the TPAC on the 17th!

-  Dick Purinton

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SOUTH ATLANTIC


Leaving the Island, Sunday, October 23, 2016

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Our recent trip to Tierra del Fuego, the Falklands and South Georgia is well behind us, but I admit to still getting acclimated, as well as excited when I think back on the many fine moments.

Part of returning home is to get back into whatever routine existed before we left.   The rest has to do with travel memories, putting them into perspective as to what was most important, and given all that we did, what was most meaningful?

Our time away was 18 days, with 13 days spent onboard the National Geographic Explorer.  Motivation for such a trip stemmed from reading about exploration and adventures of Shackleton and many others, for their exploits in the southern latitudes.  But we were open to a good adventure ourselves, learning about places completely new to us, and the birds, mammals and people we might encounter along the way.

Because this was billed by Lindblad as a special expedition - it was the company's 50th year offering Antarctic travel expeditions - that coincidentally was also the100th year of Sir Ernest Shackelton's heroic efforts in finding help at South Georgia.   He and 27 others spent nearly 18 months on the ice after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed in the ice pack, then sailed a small boat in treacherous seas from Elephant Island to South Georgia.  That feat is still considered one of the finest examples of fortitude and navigational success, given the sea conditions they were up against, but in determination it was equalled by the climb of Shackleton and two of his crew, up and over steep mountains and treacherous glaciers to at last reach the Stromness whaling station on the NE side of South Georgia. 

That was the background theme to our trip, one that I hoped would connect us in a meaningful way, including the possibility of retracing the route of Shackleton's final steps on his return to civilization.

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego

Groggy from the airports and plane rides from Green Bay to Miami, and then to Buenos Aires, we spent a very comfortable overnight in a fine hotel in the old section of this Argentine city.  Several tours were offered, where we met others who would soon be our shipmates, and we learned about the people and the capital of Argentina.  The following morning, by 7:30, our contingency of approximately 70 was bussed to the domestic flight airport, where we boarded a LAN flight to Argentina's southernmost city near the tip of South America.  This is the port where our ship would get underway later that same afternoon.  In order to give a comparison of the N/S distance covered that day in Argentina, the jet flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia took 3 1/2 hours, the same approximate time it took to fly from OHare to Miami.

End of the transcontinental highway in the
Tierra Del Fuego national park. Dandelions reflect
the spring day's temperatures of over 50 F.   


Ushuaia is a city that's seen tremendous growth in recent years, in part due to incentives by the Argentine government to settle the area.  Not that many years ago the population was under 10,000.  And years before that, Ushuaia was the sparsely settled home of Argentina's federal penal colony, believed then to be far enough away from civilization so as to be a perfect place for a prison.  

The surrounding forests and its natural habitat, and the nearby harbors, have much to recommend Ushuaia for hiking and observing wildlife.  One animal found there today in abundance has turned out to be a major pest without natural predator, is the beaver.  It was introduced to the area as a few mating pairs, but today the numbers are so great and the range so extensive that they can't be controlled.

On a catamaran tour we were treated to observing our first groups of penguins and seals sunning on a rocky outcropping in the Beagle Channel.  The birdlife observed that afternoon was just a foretaste of what we were to see in the weeks to follow.  Thor's beard took a set in the breeze as the catamaran sped toward a colony of penguins, shags and elephant seals positioned on rocks near a harbor navigational light that serves as an icon for the area's tourism.  Today, tourism - ecotourism - is the key to the Ushuaia economy.


We disembarked from the catamaran at Ushuaia's main commercial pier.  A containership from Buenos Aires that shuttles products back and forth to this remote city was busy loading empty containers.  A supply ship resembling an oil patch service vessel was moored across the pier and astern of the Lindblad National Geographic Explorer.  Pier activity was so intense in the late afternoon, with trucks, lifts and other equipment moving about, that we were bussed the hundred yards or so from our landing to the Explorer's gangway, for our personal safety. Within minutes, we were shown our cabin and found our winter expedition gear on our beds.

If I held any concerns leading up to this trip for my own health and mobility - considering our isolation from medical care during our trip - I dismissed those thoughts rather quickly when I observed a number of fellow passengers finding a way to manage, many who appeared to be of an even greater age, and many who exhibited mobility difficulties.  I would soon learn that every one of them would get along just fine, given their personal initiative and confidence, and the kind assistance given by the ship's staff at every point along the way.
  
There were many dedicated Lindblad travelers, I also learned, who embarked with us, proud to be on their second, third, fourth - and even one couple on their fifth - trip to the Falklands and South Georgia.   They well knew the routine and what was to be anticipated along the way.  

I asked, somewhat incredulously, "What is it about this trip that brings you back so many times?"   Their answer: "Penguins!"  That, and the fact that even though they've managed to visit just about every place on earth, no place for them compared to South Georgia.

With that high recommendation imprinted in my mind, lines were cast off, the dining room was open for a buffet dinner, and we headed down the channel for the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic!


Our ship waited several hours for luggage that was late in arriving.  Then shortly
after sunset, we got underway for the Falkland Islands.  The first several days on the open
sea, once clear of the Beagle Channel, would take their toll among the
passengers, evidenced by empty seats in the dining room as
the ship moved about in the seas.









Note:  I won't attempt to do a day-by-day recap by blog.  However, I've scheduled a future date at the TPAC to show more photos, a few short videos, and to discuss in greater detail our trip to the Antarctic,   titled:  "People and penguins:  the southern latitudes."

Time of presentation:   4:00 pm, Saturday, December 17, 2016.   (Free will donations for the TPAC will be accepted at the door.)


 -  Dick Purinton

Saturday, October 22, 2016

OCTOBER ADVANCES

Snake Island, with decoys set out on a calm morning.




Warm weather seemed to delay fall colors.  Only after examining this photo more
closely did I see many birds, possibly ducks, circling over Detroit Harbor.
Not far away, in the top photo taken only seconds earlier, is Snake Island with
decoys, and hunters in a duck blind.  



Washington Island -

After one of the busiest, best traffic seasons ever, the Island is finally slowing down a bit.

The Karfi's last day of operation was Columbus Day, Oct. 10th, and Jeff Cornell brought it around to Detroit Harbor that same afternoon.   Benches were removed and oil was changed the following day,
and early Wednesday it was hauled and pressure washed at the Shipyard Island Marina, prior to being placed on blocks for the winter.
Jeff Cornell cleaned the Karfi hull at the Shipyard.



The Karfi began in its 49th season with a new pair of main engines, John Deere motors that replaced fairly young Perkins Sabre engines.  The Perkins had many hours remaining, potentially, but with concern for replacement parts coming from England, a move to new propulsion of nearly the same horsepower was made.  Along with new engines, new pilot house controls were also installed with a single lever per engine for both shifting and throttle (instead of a separate lever for each, as original).  The new engines and controls worked flawlessly all season.

New starboard engine on Karfi.  A new fuel
tank was fabricated and replaced the original.
Otherwise, the engine room looks much as it did
49 years ago, clean as a whistle in the bilges.
New controls and new engine gauges
also required a new and deeper console.

We'll be heading south in two days, to the tip of South America, via Buenos Aires.   Chances are, internet communications will be spotty, or expensive, or both, but if I can get a few photos published here, then I will.

We'll be enjoying the early days of spring in the southern hemisphere, with temperatures expected to be 20-30s F on South Georgia.  

Hasta luego -  Dick Purinton