Lake Superior -- Its Features -- Lake Michigan -- Lake Huron -- Lake Erie -- Lake Ontario -- Niagara River -- Niagara Falls -- Its Recession -- Resume of United States Survey -- Magnitude of the Lakes -- Phenomena -- Changes in Levels -- Lake Undulations -- A Lake Michigan Seiche -- Thunderstorms -- Pellucid Waters -- Climate of the Great Lakes -- Temperatureof Lake Water -- Winds -- Waterspouts -- Fogs -- Aberration of Sound -- The Mirage -- Humors of the Wind -- Names of the Great Lakes, Etc. -- Length of the St. Lawrence System.
The sea! the sea! the open sea!
The blue, the fresh, the ever free.
LAKE SUPERIOR is the largest body of fresh water on the globe, and is the highest and most western of the five Great Lakes. It is situated not far from the center of the continent of North America. The general form of this lake is that of a wide crescent with the outer curve toward the north. Its greatest length is from east to west, about 355 miles, and its greatest breadth is about 160 miles. Its area is about 32,000 square miles. The depth is 1,000 feet, and the surface is very nearly 602 feet above the sea, hence the bottom is about 400 feet below the level of the Atlantic ocean. The surface of this lake is about 23 feet above that of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, the greater part of this difference being in the river St. Mary's, which connects Lake Superior with Lake Huron. The largest river which empties into Lake Superior is the St. Louis, near its western end. Then from the north side may be encountered the Pigeon river, about three-fourths of the way to Port Arthur; the Nipigon, which drains the lake of the same name, and which, together with the lake, is about 200 miles long; then Pie river, White river and Michipicoten. No rivers of large size enter it from the south.
In Minnesota, one of the branches of the Mississippi river approaches to within twenty miles of the western extremity of Lake Superior, and a small lake near the head of Albany river, the waters of which flow into Hudson Bay, is only four miles from a bay opposite the State islands on the northern shore, forming a route of but little portage, which route was long used by the Hudson Bay Company for the conveyance of goods from Lake Superior to the northern country.
There are not many islands in this lake, the largest being Isle Royale, forty-four miles long, the others being Michipicoten island, in the eastern part; Island St. Ignace, in the northern part, off the mouth of the Nipigon river; Grand island, between the Pictured Rocks and Marquette; Manitou island, east of Keweenaw Point, and the Apostle islands, a short distance north of Ashland. Keweenaw Point extends into the lake from the south side to a considerable distance.
The country around Lake Superior is bold and hilly, with the exception of the peninsula between it and Lake Michigan; but few of these hills rise above 1,000 feet. On the southern shore, 100 miles west of the Sault Ste. Marie, are the Pictured Rocks. These rocks are gray and red sandstone, from 100 to 200 feet high, in many places presenting fantastic figures, and marked by numerous stripes of yellow and red.
The boundary between the United States and Canada starts from the outlet of the lake into the Sault Ste. Marie, and sweeps northward so as to include in the United States the Isle Royale, which is but thirteen miles from the Canadian shore, and strikes inland from the mouth of Pigeon river, on the northwest shore.
The water of Lake Superior is remarkably pure, cold and transparent, and great waves sometimes arise with wonderful rapidity, for the reason that fresh water is more easily moved by the wind than salt water, and, on account of the coldness of the water, fogs are frequent at night, but vanish in the morning a short time after sunrise.
The rocks around this lake are very ancient, being principally of the Laurentian and Huronian systems, though overlaid in some places by patches of the Lower Silurian. The Huronian rocks are composed of conglomerates, green stone, shale, quartz-ite and limestone, and it is in these rocks that the vast deposits of useful minerals, for which the Lake Superior region is noted, are found. These minerals are principally copper and iron on the south side of the lake. The richest copper mines are near Keweenaw Point. The metal occurs principally native, and sometimes in single masses of great size, one piece having been found in 1853, which was 40 feet long and was estimated to weigh 400 tons.
A rich vein in an islet in Thunder bay, British side of Lake Superior, yielded silver in 1870-72 to the amount of $1,230,000. Lead ore occurs in some places, but there is not much gold. The beds of red iron ore, or hematite, at Marquette, on the south side, are of remarkable extent.
Lake Michigan is the second in size of the five Great Lakes, and is the only one lying wholly in the United States: It is 320 miles long, 70 miles in mean width, and has an area of 22,400 square miles. Its surface is on a level with that of Lake Huron, 580 feet above the level of the sea, and its depth is 868 feet, so that the bottom of the lake is 288 feet below the level of the sea. By careful observations it has been found to have a lunar tide of about three inches. It receives the waters from numerous rivers and is connected by a canal with the Mississippi river. The three principal harbors on this lake are Chicago, Milwaukee and Grand Haven. Its bold and dangerous shores are lighted by nearly thirty lighthouses, and its commerce is very extensive.
Lake Huron at its northern extremity receives the waters from Lake Superior through the Sault Ste. Marie, and also those of Lake Michigan through the Straits of Mackinac. At the southern extremity its waters flow out through the St. Clair river, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit river into Lake Erie. Georgian Bay is separated from Lake Huron by the peninsula of Cabot's Head on the south and by the Manitoulin islands on the north, and north of these islands is Manitou bay, or the North channel. The entire width of Lake Huron, including Georgian Bay, is about 190 miles, and its length is about 250 miles. Its area is about 21,000 square miles. The elevation of its surface above the sea is 580 feet, and its average depth is about 802 feet, which makes the bottom of the lake down to 22O feet below the level of the sea. The level of its surface fluctuates several feet, which is the case with all the other lakes.
About 70 miles north of the outlet of this lake Saginaw bay sets back into the land a distance of about 60 miles, and behind its islands and shores vessels find a partial shelter from northwest and northeast storms. Thunder bay is a similar, but smaller, extension of the lake into the land on the west side and about 70 miles north of Saginaw bay. Twenty eight miles farther north is Presque Isle, and here is another harbor, where the land turns toward the northwest, and a straight course is then open to Mackinac, 70 miles distant. Mackinac island is famous as a trading post and fort in the history of the northwest for its fur trade, and it is still of great importance on the lakes, having become of late years a noted summer resort. The harbor on the south side of the island is deep and well sheltered.
The shores of the Michigan side present few features of interest. The rock formations are sandstones and limestones from the Hel-derberg to the Carboniferous, but are of little importance. The forests are either a tangled growth of cedar, pine and spruce in swamps that it is difficult to penetrate, or a scattered growth of small trees on a sandy soil.
The principal streams from Michigan, which flow into Lake Huron are the Thunder Bay river, the Au Sable and the Saginaw, and, from Ontario, the French, the Muskoka, the Severn and the Nottawasaga, all flowing into Georgian Bay, and the Saugeen, the Maitland and the Au Sable. The season of navigation on this lake is from about the first of May to December.
Besides Manitoulin island in the north part of Lake Huron are the Duck islands, Cockburn island and Drummond island, the latter two separating the lake itself from the North channel. Some distance east of Mackinac island is Bois Blanc island, the latter being directly north of Sheboygan, Michigan.
Lake Erie is the most southern of the five Great Lakes, which empty themselves by the St. Lawrence river into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It separates Upper Canada on its north from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan on its east, south and west. At its southwest extremity it receives the waters of the three upper lakes, Superior, Huron and Michigan through the Detroit river, and at its northeast extremity it discharges its waters by the Niagara river into Lake Ontario. The Detroit is its largest tributary. Other rivers that empty their contents into it are the Grand river from the north; and from the west and south the Maumee, the Black, the Cuyahoga and the Grand, besides smaller streams. Lake Erie is 246 miles long, and varies from 30 to 60 miles in width. Its area is about 10,000 square miles. The surface of the lake is 573 feet above the level of the sea, and it is 210 feet deep. The bottom of this lake is, therefore, 363 feet above the level of the sea. On account of the shallowness of this lake, its navigation is peculiarly dangerous.
At its southwestern extremity it has several wooded and highly-cultivated islands, the largest of which is about 14 miles in circumference. One of its islands, opposite the city of Sandusky, was a noted prison for Rebel soldiers during the war of the Rebellion.
There is a species of clay, called Erie clay, which is one of the Pleistocene formations of the Laurentian lakes, and which occupies lowlands about Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the southern parts of Lakes Huron and Michigan. Like the till on which it rests, it contains pebbles and boulers scratched and polished by glacial action; but unlike the till it is finely laminated. This Erie clay was deposited in a series of lakes which bordered the great Pleistocene ice sheet during its final retreat.
Lake Ontario, the lowest and the smallest of the five Great Lakes, lies between New York and Canada. The name, Ontario, in the Indian language, means beautiful. The lake is about 180 miles long from east to west, and its average breadth is about 35 miles. Its surface is 247 feet above the level of the sea, and its depth is 509 feet, so that the bottom of this lake is 262 feet below the level of the sea. The area of this lake is about 6,300 square miles.
The boundary line between the United States and Canada runs through the central portion of this lake from the mouth of Niagara river to the outlet of the lake at its northeastern extremity into the St. Lawrence river. By reason of its great depth this lake is less disturbed by storms than is Lake Erie, and its navigation is much less obstructed by ice. From observations made by Professor Dewey it ap-pears that there is no periodical rise and fall of its waters, the various elevations the surface assumes depending on the rainfall and drainage. The greatest height usually occurs in February and the lowest in August, and the maximum difference is about four and a half feet.
On the north side of this lake the land rises gradually from the shore, and spreads out into broad plains. A marked feature of the topography of the south side of the lake is what is known as the Lake ridge, or as it approaches the Niagara river, the Mountain ridge. This ridge extends from Sodus, in Wayne county, to the Niagara river, and it is distant from the lake from three to eight miles. Its elevation varies, being at its approach to the Niagara river about 350 feet above Lake Ontario. Sometimes the slope on each side toward the north and south is so gradual that the line of the ridge is not easily discernible.
The Niagara river is of course the main feeder of this lake. Other rivers emptying into it are the Genesee, the Oswego, and the Black, from the south side, the Oswego being the natural outlet of most of the smaller lakes in Western New York. On the north side of Lake Ontario the rivers are the Trent, which after its passage through the hills, empties into the Bay of Quinte, a long inlet extending about 70 miles between the peninsula of Prince Edward, near the eastern extremity of the lake and the mainland, and a few smaller streams.
The largest island in this lake is at its mouth, and is named Amherst island. It is ten miles long and six miles wide. Lake Ontario is connected with Lake Erie by the Welland canal.
The length of the basin occupied by the chain of five Great Lakes and by the valley of the St. Lawrence river, their outlet to the Atlantic ocean, is about 2,000 miles. The amount of fresh water in all these lakes has been estimated at about 11,000 cubic miles, and is more than half of the entire amount of fresh water on the globe.
Niagara Falls stands pre-eminent among the waterfalls of the world. Their former, present and prospective condition have engaged the attention of many noted scientists and philosophers, and the possible consequences of their entire reduction, and the resulting changes to the Great Lakes above them, have excited the speculations and the apprehensions of many.
But Niagara flows on, as she has through unnumbered centuries. The thunder of her cataract still reverberates through her gigantic chasms, and her ocean of waters still flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, as it has from beyond the long past point of time, when first seen by human eye. No mark or monument had been erected to indicate the rapidity of the recession of the cataract, yet from general observation it has been estimated that from 1790 to 1840 this recession was about forty feet. Still this is only an approximation, and the precise rate of recession, except since 1842, remains unknown.
The oldest authentic historical account of the Falls is probably that of Father Louis Hennepin, who visited them for the first time with La Salle, in 1678. According to the rude sketch of the cataract as made by Hennepin, and his account and description of it, there was a projecting rock upon the west side of the river, which turned a portion of the water across the main fall. The language of Hennepin in describing the Falls is as follows:
"From the end, then, of this island (Goat island), it is that these great falls of water, as also the third but now mentioned, throw themselves, after a most surprising manner, down into a dreadful gulph 600 feet and more in depth. I have already said that the waters which discharge themselves at the cascade to the east fall with lesser force; whereas those to the west tumble all at once, making two cascades; one moderate, the other violent and strong, which at last makes a kind of crotchet or square figure, falling from south to north and west to east."
A copy of the sketch made by Father Hennepin is shown on another page.
In 1750 a Danish naturalist named Kalm, visited the Falls, but according to his description of them there was not at that time any third cascade. He corroborates Father Hennepin's account by telling us that the projecting rock which caused the third cascade had fallen a few years before his visit.
At the Falls at the present time the lower half of the rock is of soft shale, 80 feet in thickness, the limestone above being about the same thickness, while above is about 60 feet of thin bed limestone which form the rapids. These layers dip to the south at the rate of about 25 feet to the mile, and the declivity in the bed of the river is about 15 feet to the mile from the Falls to Lewiston. It therefore follows that as the Falls recede there has been a less and less amount of shale above water owing to the dip, and to this must be added the declivity in the river bed, both together making about 40 feet to the mile. So that when the Falls shall have receded one mile further the surface of the river below the fall will stand at a point one-half way between the present surface of the water and the bottom of the limestone. Going on in this way for another mile 40 feet more of the shale would be taken away, and the surface of the river at the bottom of the Falls would be at the base of the limestone. From this time on the river will have a solid wall of limestone to wear away, and, unless the upper layer of limestone should continue as at present to wear away faster and preserve the form of rapids, the Falls would increase in height at the top while they were decreasing in height from the bottom, and thus at the distance of about two miles from their present location, instead of being 160 feet high as they are now, they would be only about 100 feet.
From this time on the recession would be very gradual, because the rock that the water will have to wear away will be hard limestone, and when the Falls have receded about four miles from their present situation there will be nothing but hard rock above the surface of the water below them, and hard beds above them will form rapids as before. This kind of meeting between the surface of the river below the Falls and the dip of the thick bed of limestone will be about 100 feet lower than the top of the present fall. The whole fall in the river at that time from Lake Erie to the point of junction between the limestone and water below the rapids will be about 160 feet. From this point to the outlet at Lake Erie the bed of the river will be occupied by nearly uniform soft layers, and after a portion of the limestone forming the rapids shall be worn away the descent will be equally distributed over the whole extent of sixteen miles, giving a uniform declivity of about 10 feet to the mile, unless, because of the stream having no heavy blocks of stone to remove as it nears the outlet at Lake Erie, there should still be a fall of a few feet at the outlet of the lake over the limestone which there lies above the Onondaga salt group.
Thus Niagara river in the process of time will become either a continuous rapid stream from Lake Erie to Lewiston, or otherwise a rapid stream with a low fall at the outlet of Lake Erie; but whichever it may be there will be no difference in the great result. Lake Erie will be drained of a portion of its waters, the extent of the drainage depending more upon the wearing away of the layer of Helderberg limestone at its mouth than upon the recession and disappearance of Niagara Falls.
The above estimates have been based upon the theory that Niagara river will continue the outlet of Lake Erie. Should the uplift of the land from the northeast continue, as discussed in a previous chapter, and a new outlet formed through Chicago to the Mississippi valley, there cession of Niagara river will be checked long before it reaches Lake Erie.
In the year 1875 a survey of the crest lines was made by the corps of engineers of the United States army in connection with the United States lake survey, and in 1886 a survey of the crest was made by Prof. Robert S. Woodward, chief geographer of the United States geological survey. In 1890 the last survey was made under the direction of John Bogart, New York State engineer and surveyor, of the crest of the Falls as it was at that time. From these several surveys it has been possible to estimate with accuracy the recession of the Falls since the first survey made in 1842, by Prof. James Hall, then as now the State geologist of New York. The actual survey in 1890 was made by A. S. Kibbe, assistant engineer to Mr. Bogart.
The following extract is from Mr. Bogart's report, dated December 2, 1890: "The mean annual recession at both falls was much greater during the last four years than previously. This, however, was due to the fact that there was in January, 1889, a fall of considerable masses of rock. The general result of the comparison between the lines of 1842 and 1890 is, in my opinion, a substantially correct record of the mean annual recession. It shows that at the American Falls there has been a mean recession of sixty-four one-hundredths feet (768-100 inches) yearly for forty-eight years, and at the Horseshoe Falls a mean recession of two and eighteen one-hundredths feet (2 feet 2 16-100 inches) yearly for forty-eight years.
"The American Falls show a mean total recession of thirty and seventy-five one-hundredths feet in forty-eight years. The Horseshoe Falls show a mean total recession of 104 51-100 feet in forty-eight years. The length of the crest line of the American Falls was 1,080 feet in 1842, and is 1,060 feet in 1890. The length of the crest line of the Horseshoe Falls was 2,260 feet in 1842, and is 3,010 feet in 1890. The total area of recession, or of rock which has disappeared, between 1842 and the present year, 1890, is, at the American Falls, 32,900 superficial feet, or seven hundred and fifty-five one-thousandths of an acre. The total area of recession between 1842 and the present year, at the Horseshoe Falls, is 275,400 superficial feet, or six and thirty-two one-hundredths acres."
In 1818 a mass of rock and earth 160 feet long and 30 feet wide fell from Table Rock, and in 1828 and 1829 two smaller pieces also fell. In April, 1843, a mass of earth and rock fell from Goat island, and in 1847 a slide of earth and gravel occurred just north of Biddle stairs, the area of the slide being 40 x 10 feet. The greatest downfall, however, occurred June 25, 1850, when the most of Table Rock itself fell into the abyss below, the portion falling being 200 feet long, 60 feet wide and 100 feet in depth. The noise caused by the fall was heard for many miles, and sounded much like distant thunder. The driver of an omnibus had just taken his horses for their midday feed, and was washing his vehicle on that part of the rock that fell. Hearing the preliminary cracking of the rock as it began to break loose, he hastened to sol-ider ground, and was just in time to save himself from a fearful fall to death.
On February 7, 1877, an abrasion extended from the water's edge at Table Rock more than half the distance round the curve, about 1,500 feet, the mass varying from 50 to 100 feet. The contour of Horseshoe Falls was greatly changed, and within three months another falling away occurred, extending about 200 feet toward Goat island.
United States Survey. -- Accurate United States surveys of the Great Lakes were completed a few years ago. From these surveys it is shown that the elevation of the mean surface of Lake Ontario above the mean sea level is 246 ½ feet, that of Lake Erie is 572 feet, that of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan 581 feet, and that of Lake Superior 601 feet. Lake Superior's greatest depth is 1,008 feet and its mean depth 475 feet. Lake Huron has a maximum depth of 750 feet and a mean of 250 feet. Lake Erie has a maximum depth of 210 feet and an average of 70 feet. Lake Ontario has a maximum depth of 738 feet and a mean of 300 feet. The channel of the rivers connecting the lakes seldom exceeds the depth of 50 feet.
If the lakes could be drained to the level of the sea, Lake Erie would disappear, Lake Huron would be reduced to insignificant dimensions, Lake Michigan to a length of about 100 miles, with a width of 25 or 30 miles, while Lakes Ontario and Superior, with diminished areas, would still preserve the dignity of their present titles as Great Lakes.
Analysis shows no salt in water from the deepest part of Lake Superior. The beds of the lakes are clay in all places where the depth is over 100 feet. Lake Superior water at a depth of 200 feet and more stands at 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The mean annual rain and melted snow deposits in the lake basins are 29 inches in Superior, 30 inches in Huron, 32 inches in Michigan and 34 inches in Erie and Ontario, or 31 inches for the whole basin.
Lake Superior at St. Mary's river discharges 86,000 cubic feet per second, Lakes Michigan and Huron at St. Clair river 225,000, Lake Erie at Niagara 265,000, and Lake Ontario at St. Lawrence river 300,000 cubic feet per second. The volume of water in the lakes is 6,000 cubic miles, enough to supply Niagara Falls for 100 years.
Storm waves on the lakes range as high as 18 feet.
Over 200 streams flow into Lake Superior, and 800 more flow into the other lakes. These lakes contain over half of the area of fresh water on the earth. The water surface of the Great Lakes, with the land draining into it, presents the total drainage basin of over 270,000 square miles, divided as follows:
Magnitude of the Lakes-- In a lecture delivered before the Franklin Institute, at Philadelphia, in June, 1896, John Birkenbine, the well-known engineer, said: "We are familiar with the expression, Great Lakes, but do not appreciate their magnitude. If Lake Superior be superposed on Pennsylvania and adjoining States, its eastern extremity (Whitefish Bay) can be placed at Sandy Hook, N. J., and Duluth, at its western end, would be found beyond Wheeling, W. Va., the greatest width of the lake corresponding closely with the north and south boundaries of Pennsylvania.
"If Lake Michigan be so placed that Philadelphia occupies this same relative position on its shores as Chicaog, the northern end of the lake would extend to Montpelier, Vt., its width being practically the distance between Philadelphia and New York. Treating Lake Huron in a similar manner, and placing its southern extremity at Philadelphia, it would extend in a northern direction beyond Albany and Troy, N. Y., the foot of Georgian Bay corresponding with New Haven, Conn., that of Saginaw Bay being at Pottsville, Pa., while the Straits of Mackinac would approach Rochester, N. Y., the distance from the foot of the lake to the straits being practically that between Philadelphia and Pittsburg. Assuming Philadelphia as occupying the same position on the shore of Lake Erie as Buffalo, Pittsburg would correspond with the mouth of the Detroit river, and the distance across Lake Ontario from Watertown, N. Y., on the east, to Hamilton, Ont., on the west, is equal to that from Philadelphia to Cumberland, Maryland."
Phenomena. -- Scarcely a surface phenomenon exists on the ocean that is not duplicated, though in less degree, upon the lakes. There are tides, waterspouts, fogs and thunderstorms, mirage and even icebergs. Many of these are not yet thoroughly understood, especially those relating to variations of water levels.
Emigrants from New England and New York destined for Cleveland and other points along the southern shore of Lake Erie, early in the century, found, after passing Buffalo, a clean beach of sand close to the water's edge. This they made use of as a road, and had but little difficulty in getting along, except in crossing the rivers and creeks. A few years later travelers along this route were surprised to find this sandy beach submerged by the waters of the lake, and they were again surprised, still later, to find this beach high and dry, the waters of the lake having receded. This was to the early emigrant a great mystery. It was due, in part, to the fact that in the rainy season the rivers carry more water into the lakes, than they do in a dry season. And the great chain of lakes may be regarded as one great river, the individual lakes being connected by short straits incapable of immediately discharging the surplus water, the surface of the lakes naturally rising in proportion to the amount of water discharged into them, and gradually falling as the dry season approaches. This is an annual movement, the rise occurring in June or July, and the low stage being reached in February or March. This annual rise and fall is comparatively easy to understand and to explain.
Besides these annual fluctuations there is what is called the "secular fluctuation," covering a series of years, these cycles being of equal duration. The difference in the height of the water from the time it is the highest to the time when it is the lowest, is about six feet nine inches, which is a very important matter, when its effect upon rivers and harbors is taken into account. There was a very low stage of water in 1819, from which year on until 1838 the water gradually rose, and in this year in Cleveland warehouse cellars were flooded to the depth of a foot. From 1838 to 1851 there was a gradual fall, except that in 1841 there was a slight rise. In 1854 the water was as high for a short time as it was in 1838.
The systematic observation of the level of the lakes commenced in 1859. At that time the water surface was 1.1 feet below the mean level for the months of June, July and August, 1838, and 3.4 feet above the mean level for June, July and August, 1847. The stage of water of 1859 has not been reached since then, but it has been approximated twice. In August, 1876, the water level reached a point only one-tenth of a foot below the level of August, 1859, and again in June, 1886, when it reached a point only one-twentieth of a foot below the level of August, 1859.
From 1859 to the spring of 1869 the course of the water level was down. In May, 1869, the water temporarily reached a point one-tenth of a foot below the mean low water of the summer of 1847. This was followed by a rapid rise of the water until August, 1871, after which time there was an equally rapid fall of the water until November, 1872, when the water reached a point three-tenths of a foot below the summer level of 1847, where it remained for about a month and a half. From January 1, 1873, to the middle of 1876 the water rapidly rose, and this was followed by a general fall until February, 1880, when the water was only about one-tenth of a foot above the level of 1847. From 1880 to 1886 the water steadily rose, reaching in the summer of the latter year the highest point since 1859. Since 1886 there has been a general falling of the water. The level of the lakes depends in part upon the rainfall within the basin drained by them, and also upon the amount of evaporation and the outflow through the rivers. The rainfall and evaporation are seldom equal to each other in any given year, but yet the amount of rainfall is, of course, the principal factor in the lake level. The winter temperature is also an important factor in determining the height of water for the next summer, for if the snow that falls is melted throughout the winter and early spring the lakes are high at that time at the expense of the summer elevation, especially if the summer is a more than usually dry one. The outflow of the lake basin is slightly less than half the rainfall.
Lake Undulations. -- For many years fishermen and sailors on the Great Lakes have noticed with interest and curiosity the peculiar, rapid changes in the water level at the head of shallow lagoons or bays. In order to investigate this phenomenon, F. Napier Denison, of the Toronto Meteorological Observatory, devised a simple instrument to record these movements and placed it at the mouth of the Humber river, near Toronto, in July, 1896, where interesting results have been obtained. Reference is made by Mr. Crosman in his valuable lake charts to these undulations as existing but not fully understood. In Europe the subject is by no means novel, having been observed as early as 1730, upon the Swiss lakes, where it obtained the name of "seiche," owing to the apparent "drying up," or recession of the water upon one side of the lake when rising at the other side.
From a careful study of these lake records in conjunction with the synoptic weather charts and sensitive barograph traces, the following points have been deduced: When the lake undulations become large and rapid, so do the atmospheric waves as recorded upon the barograph. That the lake level is never stationary; the smallest movements recorded were from one-half an inch to one inch.
The longitudinal and transverse " seiches," are due to great differences of atmospheric pressure between the extremities of the lake, which are doubtless augmented when the gale strikes the surface of the water. They occur shortly before during and for several days after the passage of a severe storm. The average time interval of these movements for Lake Ontario is about four hours and forty-nine minutes and forty-five minutes, respectively.
The smaller undulations are due to the direct action of the atmospheric waves as they move over the surface of the lake, tending to form minute undulations upon the surface, and as they move further into a bay become magnified as they reach narrower and shallower portions of the bay, until finally they assume the proportions recorded on the instrument.
These undulations become rapid and of great amplitude during fine weather many hours before the approach of a storm from the Southern States, while on the other hand they are at a minimum preceding and and during fine, settled weather.
A Lake Michigan Seiche. -- The erroneously termed "tidal waves," encountered on Lake Erie especially, but upon all the lakes to a greater or less extent, are due to large and rapid atmospheric changes noticeable upon the barograph preceding or during thunder storms. One of the most violent seiches on Lake Michigan occurred on Friday morning, April 7, 1893, when the water in the port of Chicago suddenly rose four feet in a series of heavy waves. Great damage to the shipping resulted. Vessels were cast adrift without any of the headway necessary to make their rudders of service; there were many collisions. A heavy gale was blowing at the time, as is shown in the report of the event by H. C. Franken-field, then Chicago's weather man. At the time of the wave, 1:30 a. m., the wind was coming in from the north-northeast at the rate of forty-three miles an hour. A paragraph from the report reads as follows: "The wave occurred between 1:30 and 1:45 a. m., April 7, and its height was from four to six feet. "The damage done was principally to vessels anchored in the river. Several were torn from their moorings and carried toward the lake, causing numerous collisions with other vessels. Some were carried out into the lake. * * * The waves occur from time to time, and I have observed that they always occur at the time of a sudden and decided rise or fall in the barometer." This same wave was felt across the lake at St. Joseph, where it swept 700 feet back of the high-water mark.
A more complex seiche took place June 13, 1872, at Oswego. A government report describes it in part as follows: "Its period was from twenty to thirty minutes, and during its continuance a white squall passed to the north over the lake, accompanied by a small waterspout. An employe of the survey, who happened to be out on the lake, reported that he heard strange noises, and the fish rose to the surface as if stunned."
On September 28, 1895, Duluth experienced a sudden rise of about five feet. The event was spoken of as "a notable tidal wave." The real causes are to be found in the conditions which prevailed. A heavy gale was and had been blowing, varying in direction from northeast to southeast. Heavy rains had been falling over the greater part of Lake Superior. The barometer at Duluth was lower than that of the district to the east. It was inevitable, therefore, by virtue of all these causes, that the water should be forced toward the western end of the lake. Duluth is at the extremity of a narrow bay; the water came up as though through a mill race. Heavy property loss resulted.
Inasmuch as the wave was due mainly to the storm, it should properly have been called a storm wave. Wind was the prime factor in the disturbance; rain, barometric conditions and the other conditions acted as supplementary causes. The action of any one of these forces is frequent, but usually it has one or more of the others acting against it. Equilibrium thus is preserved. The chances are so greatly against a complete union or co-operation of all the meteorological forces that such waves as that at Duluth are rare.
"The fleet of vessels in winter quarters at Sheboygan, Wis.," said the Marine Record of January 27, 1898, "experienced a severe shaking up on Monday last, occasioned by a tidal wave, the third of the season. The wave was caused by the northeast gale, and the water swept up the river in such great volumes that the harbor was turned into a small whirlpool. Ice from 12 to 16 inches thick was ground into chunks, and vessels were torn from their moorings. The schooner Mason crashed into the steamer Seymour, demolishing the latter's after cabin and losing her own jibboom and forerigging. The schooner Duval jammed into the steamer Wetmore and three schooners. Other vessels parted their lines and were tossed about, but were secured before any serious damage was done."
On Tuesday, April 25, 1854, says a newspaper account, a singular spectacle presented itself on Lake Erie, off Dunkirk, which was a convulsion of the waters, or great wave, preceding a storm on that lake, which was also noticed by several along the coast both above and below that harbor and on the high ground for some distance inland. It has been more extensively noticed on Lake Ontario than on Lake Erie, and is followed, almost immediately, by thunderstorms. Three of these convulsions had previously occurred, on September 20, 1845; January 8, 1847, and July 5, 1850, all of which were attended with like results, as that of the 25th of April above noted. These sudden changes of levels have been frequently noticed on all the lakes from earliest historical records.
A writer, in 1789, gives an account of a strange phenomenon which occurred that year at the Grand Portage: " The water withdrew, leaving the ground dry, which had never before been visible, the fall of the water being equal to four perpendicular feet, and rushing back with great velocity above the common mark. It continued thus rising and falling for several hours, the commotion gradually decreasing until it remained stationary at its usual height."
"Sudden gusts of wind spring up on the lake, and hence the oldest voyageurs are most inclined to hug the shore. Instead of seeking for a solution of these phenomena by a resort to natural causes, they ascribe them, like the Scandinavians of old, to the freaks of a crazy old woman, who is endowed with ubiquity:
Now here, now there, and everywhere.
"Before the middle of September, a change in the elements becomes observable. The light and sportive breezes are succeeded by heavy gales, which sweep over the lake, and render coasting exceedingly hazardous."
Thunderstorms. -- The storms which agitate the Lakes, though less violent than the typhoons of the Indian Ocean or perhaps than the hurricanes of the Atlantic, are still very dangerous to mariners; and, owing to the want of sea-room, and the scarcity of good harbors, shipwrecks are but too common, and frequently attended with much loss of life. A short, ugly sea gets up very quickly after the wind begins to blow hard, and subsides with equal celerity when the wind goes down.
"In a storm," said Uncle John, as quoted by Constance Fenimore Woolson in one of her breezy sketches, "navigation is more dangerous on our western lakes than on the ocean; there is not space enough for safety, and the short waves and narrow channels require more skill than the broad sweep of the ocean. There is always a lee-shore near, and you cannot run away from it as you can at sea."
"Thunderstorms of great violence are not unusual upon Lake Superior," says one of the early writers. "October and November," remarks the Marine Review, "are the months in which severe storms most frequently occur on the lakes. On Lakes Erie and Ontario, the wind usually commences at the southeast and works round through south to west and northwest, and the time of the hardest blow is usually when the barometer begins to rise as the wind gets around to the west. On Lake Huron and in Georgian Bay, the wind, though for the most part changing as on the lower lakes, not unfre-quently changes with great suddenness, chopping after a lull from south-southeast to northwest, and blowing hardest, as a rule, from the northwest."
Pellucid Waters. -- The waters of Lake Superior are marvelously clear, and even at mid-summer are exceedingly cold. "In passing along its rocky shores in my frail canoe," observes Lanman, "I have often been alarmed at the sight of a sunken boulder which I fancied must be near the top, and on further investigation have found myself to be upwards of twenty feet from the danger of a concussion; and I have frequently lowered a white rag to the depth of one hundred feet, and been able to discern its every fold or stain. The color of the water near the shore is a deep green, but off soundings it has all the dark blue appearance of the ocean. The sandy shores are more abrupt than those of any body of water I have ever seen; and within a few feet of many of its innumerable bluffs, it would be impossible for a ship to anchor.
" The natural harbors of this lake are not numerous, but on account of its extent and depth it affords an abundance of sea-room, and is consequently one of the safest of the great lakes to navigate. The only trouble is that it is subject to severe storms which arise very suddenly. Often have I floated on its sleeping bosom in my canoe at noonday and watched the butterfly sporting in the sunbeams; and at the sunset hour of the same day have stood in perfect terror upon the rocky shore gazing upon the mighty billows careering onward as if mad with a wild delight, while a wailing song, mingled with the ' trampling surf,' would ascend to the gloomy sky."
"An interesting, and very sad thing about Lake Superior," says W. S. Harwood in St. Nicholas, " is that it never gives up its dead. Whoever encounters terrible disaster -- happily infrequent in the tourist season -- and goes down in the angry, beautiful blue waters, never comes up again. From those earliest days when the daring French voyageurs, in their trim birch-bark canoes, skirted the picturesque shores of this noble but relentless lake, down to this present moment, those who have met their deaths in mid-Superior still lie at the stone-paved bottom. It may be that, so very cold is the water, some of their bodies may have been preserved through the centuries. Sometimes, not far from the shore, the bodies of people who have been wrecked from fishing-smacks or from pleasure boats overtaken by a cruel squall have been recovered, but only after the most heroic efforts with drag-net or by the diver. Once, on a trip down the lakes I met a clergyman who, as we passed a point of land some miles before entering the narrowing of the lake at the Soo, pointed out the place where the ill-fated 'Algoma' went down on the reef some eight years ago; and as he looked, he said slowly: ' I was at the funeral of one man who went down with her, and the only reason his body is not at the bottom to-day, with the other thirty-eight that were lost, is because it was caught in the timbers of the vessel and could not sink.'"
A bulletin prepared by Prof. Henry A. Hazen, under the direction of Willis L. Moore, chief of weather bureau, on "The Climate of the Great Lakes," was issued in the fall of 1897. From the records of the weather service stations, extending back in many instances to November, 1870, a number of interesting meteorological tables have been compiled.
The following table gives the mean temperature at lake stations by months:
To the above table is added the mean monthly temperature at Huron for purposes of comparison, as it lies north of Milwaukee, but 500 miles from the lake. The lowest annual temperature is at Duluth and the highest at Sandusky. The lowest monthly temperature is in January, 6°. 8 at Huron, and the lowest on the lakes is 10°. 3 at Duluth; the highest in January is 26°. 5 at Sandusky. These figures show only very slightly the influence of the lake water in moderating the temperature.
Temperature of Lake Water. -- The following table gives the temperature of the lake water approximately. This temperature was measured near the land and at some depth below the surface, thus giving an idea of the temperature near the surface at the center of the lake. At Chicago there is added the value at the crib some four miles from shore:
Among the deductions made by Professor Hazen is that the influence of lake water in lowering the temperature during the hottest part of the day is greatest at Chicago and Marquette. The tendency of the lake water to raise the lowest temperature of the day is particularly marked at Duluth, Escanaba, Marquette and Milwaukee. The deductions begin with March as the first month, the lake being frozen near the coast so as to prevent observations in January and February. It will be noted that the moderating effect of the lake temperature must be greatest to warm the air in January and February, though this effect in turn, is nearly nil on Lake Superior, as that body of water is entirely frozen over. There is a noteworthy effect at Grand Haven, where the mean lake temperature in each month is nearly as high as the highest air temperature; in fact, in August the lake water is a very little warmer than the warmest during the day. A part of the warmth is owing to the shallowness of the east shore of the lake, thus permitting a stronger effect from the sun; also the current in the lake on the east shore is toward the north, which carries up the warmer waters of the south portion. In this connection it is noted that the general westerly winds over Lake Michigan moderate the temperature all along the center and south shores of Michigan. In fact, the climatic conditions are much more moderate than along the south shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, though the latter are much farther south.
It should also be noted that on the south shore of Lake Superior there is a harmful effect produced in the spring by the abundance of ice in the lakes. This causes numerous frosts and very low temperature, which prevent planting until too late to mature the crop. The table shows a mean water temperature at Marquette in June 25° colder than at Toledo and 22° colder than at Grand Haven.
Winds. -- Next to the temperature the wind has the greatest influence upon the climate of the regions near the lake shores. As we have seen in the preceding discussion, a lake wind has a marked influence in raising the winter temperature, and in lowering the highest temperature of summer.
In January the prevailing direction of wind is southwest at Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Duluth, Erie, Port Huron, Sandusky and Toledo. It is west at Alpena, Escanaba, Marquette, Milwaukee and Rochester; south at Cleveland and Oswego; special, or from all directions, at Grand Haven.
In July the prevailing winds are southwest at Buffalo, Detroit, Grand Haven, Sandusky and Toledo; west at Alpena, Erie, Marquette, Oswego and Rochester; south and north at Cleveland and Escanaba; northeast and southwest at Chicago, Duluth and Port Huron; special, or from all directions, at Milwaukee.
The following table shows the total number of miles per month at each station. The low velocity at Duluth is due to the fact that there are bluffs to the westward and southward which break the force of the wind.
In the next table is given the highest wind in each month, with the direction from which it blew, as reported from each station. The highest velocity ever observed at any lake station in twenty-six years was ninety miles per hour from the southwest. This occurred at Buffalo, N. Y., on January 13, 1890, at 11:55 A. M. during the prevalence of a very intense storm in Ontario with very steep gradients. The influence of topography upon the highest winds is clearly shown at Chicago and Duluth, where seven of the highest winds in each month are from E or NE direction. At most of the stations the direction of maximum wind is from some westerly point.
Waterspouts. -- The waterspout is one of the most impressive of Nature's displays of power. A black tornado cloud comes whirling over the water; it stoops toward the surface; the water beneath it becomes violently agitated, and suddenly, as though magnetized, leaps aloft to meet the cloud. Then, trailing under it -- its whirling, frightful liquid pillar -- the black cloud continues its furious dance across the sky. It is a most impressive spectacle.
A waterspout's effect upon a vessel with which it might collide can only be conjectured. There are reports of several vessels having encountered these monsters in earlier years.
On Tuesday, July 8, 1897, a gigantic waterspout was seen at Sandusky, Ohio. It lasted somewhat longer than a quarter of an hour. The Marine Record describes the event: " Previous to this remarkable phenomenon the atmosphere was unusually clear, and far-away objects could be seen with a wonderful degree of distinctness. When this is the condition of affairs vessel-men forecast a heavy blow. The prediction proved true, as clouds were seen from apparently over Put-in-Bay. As they moved in a low east by south direction they took up large quantities of water and whirled it through the air at a terrific rate of speed. The dimensions assumed by the waterspout were approximately twenty-five feet in diameter and reached a height of several thousand feet. It was an awe-inspiring sight to witness the fall of the immense column of water when it broke away from the influence of the whirlwind which caught it up from the surface of Lake Erie."
C. S. Martin, editor of the Times, Oswego, N. Y., wrote another description: "When the morning dawned the sky was overcast by dark, forbidding clouds, which denoted both wind and rain. The clouds over the lake were especially black and dangerous looking. A strong wind was blowing from the northwest, making a nasty, choppy sea. Suddenly out of the western horizon there could be seen sweeping down the lake a conical-shaped column. It looked like a huge serpent, twisting and revolving with the rapidity of lightning. The column reached from the dark, overhanging clouds to the surface of the lake. As it approached off this port it was seen to be five or six miles in the lake. As it whirled along it seemed to pick up large volumes of water and whirl it into the air. The water at its base was churned into a cauldron. When a mile or two below this port it burst. As it did so a vivid flash of lightning came out of the east, and a thousand tons of water which had been taken from the lake fell back, causing a mighty swell, which rolled shoreward. No sooner had this strange phenomenon disappeared than another was seen following in its course. It was larger than the first, and agitated the water more violently. It, too, broke at about the same place as did the former. There was a wait of perhaps half an hour when one of the grandest and most awe-inspiring sights ever witnessed on the lakes was seen.
"Two of these whirling, writhing columns, standing obliquely from the lake to the sky, were seen coming down the lake. They were both larger than the two which had preceded them, and they raised a mountainous sea along their course. They were as black as black could be. On they came, picking up thousands of tons of water and whirling it into the air as if it was the lightest of feathers. The outside of the conical columns was one whirling black mass. Through the center could be seen a white streak, like a vacuum, through which the water was being drawn from the lake to the clouds in a steady stream. These waterspouts were out between six and seven miles in the lake; the smaller one burst, but the larger one remained intact and was whirled down the lake toward the mouth of the St. Lawrence river keeping intact until lost sight of. These wonderful formations of vapor and water are dreaded by seafaring men, for a vessel, no matter how stanch she may be, is but a plaything in the power of a well-developed waterspout. The largest which passed this port was apparently between 75 and 100 feet in diameter at the bottom, and had it struck a vessel would have sent her to the bottom."
All five of the lakes are subject to these demonstrations. Erie, particularly, by reason of its shallowness.
In a recent communication in the Marine Record, Charles Gale, of London, Ont., speaking of waterspouts, says: "In June, 1845, I was anchored off Port Burwell loading lumber when a waterspout struck the beach close to us. Sticks of timber were thrown on the bank 12 feet high, four schooners drove ashore, and lumber was scattered all over the country, for with the waterspout was a sort of a tidal wave. The steamer Constitution had her wheelhouse and upper deck stove in, as well as three hands killed, through getting near to a bursting waterspout some years previous to the time I speak of. At another time, or in September, 1861, I was lying under Long Point, when a waterspout bursted near us, and there was such a commotion in the water that my vessel walked away with her anchor."
First Mate J. E. Reynolds of the Kittie M. Forbes was quoted by the Buffalo Courier in the description of several waterspouts encountered in August, 1898, about 20 miles east of the Dummy. Capt. James Montgomery corroborated the account and said: "I've heard a great many lake men tell of seeing waterspouts here, but I always gave them a grain of allowance. I counted seven of the waterspouts, and it was more than an hour and a half from the time we saw the first one, until the last had disappeared. They were of varying size, from that of a man's body to that of a house. They seemed to extend from the surface of the lake clear into the clouds. I must confess that I was a bit scary of the big fellow dead ahead of us. I think prompt action in sheering off to the nor'ard prevented a collision, and probably the fact that the wind eased up, aided our escape."
Fogs are another common occurrence on the Great Lakes, and are often attended by considerable damage to shipping from grounding. One peculiarity and danger of fog is the occasional aberration of sound. The Marine Record of December 3, 1896, gives the following account of aberration on Lake Michigan: "The fog signal located at the lake entrance to the Sturgeon Bay Ship canal is inaudible and unreliable at certain distances therefrom during the prevalence of a fog, and according to observations made by Charles O. Chapman, keeper of the station, the area of inaudibility covers a space of four square miles. Straight out from the canal SE ½ E. (true) for nearly a mile the fog whistle can be distinctly heard, but beyond that the sound becomes muffled and is suddenly lost to all hearing; this occurs for the space of about a mile, when it becomes audible again. This remarkable phenomenon extends over a space of 2 ½ miles north of SE ½ E. (true), and about 1 ½ miles south of SE ½ E. (true), and is about a mile in width, and has the same trend as that of the shore abreast of it, which forms an angle of about 90° and from point to point trends north, northeasterly and south, southwesterly. Many instances are known where steamboat and vessel captains have noted the steam from the whistle over a fog bank, but were unable to hear any sound from the same.
"Those of the steamboat captains and others that have been interviewed on the subject differ widely from one another as to the exact location of this obscured spot. Some claim it to be south of the canal and about four miles from shore, while others claim it to be north of the canal and about two miles out. The life-savers at that point, in patrolling the beach both north and south of the canal, report at times they are unable to hear the whistle at distances not more than 2 ½ miles. In speaking about the matter recently, Capt. Edward Cox, of the steambarge Seymour, says his experience has been that in coming down the lake in a fog and steering N. by E. the fog whistle is picked up near and off Ahnapee, and can be distinctly heard until at a point about six miles north of Ahnapee, and about four miles from shore when it becomes inaudible and remains so for about four miles, when it is again picked up and held.
"The same phenomenon has been noticed at Poverty island recently by the officers of the lighthouse supply steamer Dahlia, Capt. Charles H. Hubbard. The Dahlia, during the prevalence of a fog, passed within a mile of the island and the officers on board were trying to pick up the fog whistle, but to no avail. Suddenly the fog lifted sufficiently to enable the officers to see the steam from the whistle, but they were unable to hear it until farther on. Another remarkable instance is the fog whistle at Kewaunee, which can be heard at the canal when it snows as plainly as though it were not more than 10 miles distant instead of 25; but in a fog it cannot be heard at the canal at all."
The Mirage on the lakes is another curious phenomenon. Some of the occupants of the high buildings are aware of the mirage frequently to be seen on the lake. A straight line drawn from the top of the Masonic Temple, touching the horizon, and on toward St. Joseph, would pass over that town on a level considerably above its highest steeple. Yet St. Joseph is often seen from sixteenth floor windows, and sometimes from even less height. The aid of mirage is necessary to explain the apparent depression of the horizon. The mirage inverted, high in the air, is peculiar to the tropics. The mirage of this latitude, however, sometimes allows one to see objects at great distance. Duluth once was reported to be seen from a steamer 300 miles to the east. An explanation of the phenomenon involves tiresome technicalities. The sum and substance of it all is that the mirage actually makes a curve in the line of vision, to some extent counteracting the convexity of the horizon. The curve in the line of vision is produced by variations in the density of the layers of air between the object and the eye. The principle is aptly illustrated by dropping a cent into an empty bucket, shutting one eye, then ranging the bucket so that its near rim shuts off the view of all but the farther edge of the cent. Have the bucket filled with water and the entire cent becomes visible. Here the denser medium is water; in mirage it is a layer of denser air. [Chicago Times Herald.] One of these phenomena, occurring over forty years ago, is thus preserved in an old account: In the month of August, 1856, a beautiful sight presented itself on Lake Ontario, and was seen by those on board the steamer Bay State, while on the passage from Niagara to Genesee river. It was known as a lake mirage, and was of unusual splendor. It took place just as the sun was setting, at which time some twelve vessels were seen reflected on the horizon in an inverted position with surprising clearness. The sky was overcast with a thick haze, such as is seen before a storm, and of a color favorable to represent upon a darkened background, clearly outlined, rigging and sails as perfectly as if the vessels themselves were actually transferred to the canvas. This unusual phenomenon lasted until darkness ended the scene.
Humors of the Wind. -- The wind has odd humors, sometimes. Captain Busse once sailed a schooner over to St. Joseph in good time, over a sea as smooth as glass. On deck it was dead calm. The lower sails didn't draw an ounce. The top-sails, however, were drawn stiff in a fresh breeze all the way over. The same phenomenon has been noted by others, but never has been satisfactorily accounted for. The Straits of Gibraltar have been said to be the only place where the wind indulges in the harmless whim of blowing in two directions at once. The statement is a mistake. Lieutenant Wilson, in the hydrographic office at Chicago, has seen the wind blow the smoke from steamers on the lake in four different directions at one time. The remarkable sight has been seen of two yachts, within a mile and a half of each other, running before the wind in opposite directions.
Length of the St. Lawrence System. -- The St. Lawrence river system pierces inland a greater distance than the width of the Atlantic ocean, following the ordinary lines of navigation. The following table of distances from the Straits of Belle Isle to Port Arthur has been prepared by Canadian authorities.
Of the 2,259 ¾ miles from the straits of Belle Isle to the head of Lake Superior, or to Port Arthur, 71 miles are artificial navigation, and 2,188 ¾ open lake navigation. The total fall from Lake Superior to tidewater, at Three Rivers, is about 600 feet, a little more rather than less. The distance from Belle Isle to Liverpool, Eng., is 2,234 statute miles, or 1,942 geographical miles.
The early names bestowed upon the Great Lakes by the French navigators varied with different writers. In the final edition of Champlain's narratives, bearing date of 1632, is a great map of the lake region as Champlain pictured it, in which Lake Ontario is marked " Lake St. Louis," and Lake Huron as " Mer Douce." Lake Michigan was called the "Grand Lac," and the Sault Ste. Marie, which was known to be the outlet of a great lake, was named the " Sault du Gaston," in commemoration of a brother of Louis XIII. No Lake Erie appears on this map, but there is drawn a long river draining Lake Huron, and passing over a cataract into Lake Ontario. About this time Vimont gave the name " Onguiaahra Sault" to Niagara Falls.
A map by Sanson (1656) shows all the five great lakes -- the Ontario, or " Lac de St. Louis"; Erie, or "Lac Du Chat"; " Ka-regnondi," or Lake Huron; "Lac de Puans," or Lake Michigan; and Lac Superieur.
In 1660 a map was made by Creuxius which gives the fives Great Lakes under the following name: " Lacus Ontarius," " La-cus Erius seu Felis," "Mare Dulce seu Lacus Huronum," " Magnus Lacus Algonquin-orum seu Lacus Foetetium," and "Lacus Superior."
In a map from the Jesuit Relation of 1672, Lake Superior is called " Lake Tracy," and Lake Michigan, " Lac des Illinois. "
Galinee made a map of the lake region in which Lake Michigan is set down as " Lac des Puants," and there also appears on his map a " Nation des Puants," on the west shore of this lake. Lake Huron is styled " Mer Douce," Lake Erie, " Lac du Chat," and Lake Ontario," Lac St. Louis," and it is made to appear by this map that the waters of Lake Huron pass down the Ottawa river instead of through Lake Erie and over Niagara Falls.
Lake Michigan in 1679 was known as Lac des Illinois, because it gave access to the country of the Indians, so named. Three years before Allouez called it Lac St. Joseph, by which name it was often designated by early writers. Membre, Douay and others called it Lac Dauphin.
Ontara in Iroquois means "lake," and Ontario, "beautiful lake."
The greater part of the southern shore of Lake Erie was at one time occupied by a tribe of Indians from which the lake derived its name, the Eries. This name is always mentioned by the early French writers as meaning "cat." On Sanson's map, published in 1656, Lake Erie is called " Lac du Chat" or Lake of the Cat. The name must be attributed to the wild cat or panther. It may have been assumed by the tribe because its warriors thought themselves as valorous as are these animals; or it may have been applied to them by their neighbors because of the number of wild beasts and panthers in the territory occupied by the Eries. These are the suggestions as to the origin of the name made by early writers.
A half century ago a writer, explaining a number of upper lake names, said: --
Lake Superior (Lac Superieur, Fr., Kitchi-gumrni, Ch.). -- The name upon the Jesuit map is "Lac Tracy ov Svperievr." Lac Superieur means simply Upper Lake. Lac Tracy seems to indicate a desire on the part of the Jesuits to perpetuate the name of M. de Tracy, by giving it to the largest sheet of fresh water on the globe. We need hardly add that the name of Lake Tracy was never adopted, and is quite unknown. Kitchi-gummi signifies Great-water or Great-lake, "gummi" being, in general, a collection of water, or lake.
Michipicoten (Great sand) Bay. -- Not descriptive of the island, but of the river.
Neepigon Bay. -- Neepi, or nipi, is water; neepigon, dirty water.
Le Pate. -- Pie island; or pastry island, from its fancied resemblance to a French pie. The island rises from the water to the height of eight hundred feet, with regular and slightly sloping sides, like a hat; and the term "Hat island," would convey a better idea to the American reader, of its outline, than that now in use.
Isle Royale. -- Isle Minong on Jesuit map. Minong is said to mean Great-island. Another explanation is that it means an island which is intersected in passing from one point to another. Thus one in voyaging down the north shore might pass from Pigeon river to Washington harbor, and, following along the shore of this island to its eastern extremity, make the traverse to Point Porphyry. It is very curious to observe that, on the map of the Great Lakes published in Charlevoix's Journal (1744), another large island of nearly the same size and shape as Isle Royal is inserted about half way between Keweenaw Point and Isle Royale. To this island, which is not on the Jesuit map, published sixty years before, the name of Isle Philippeaux is given, and it figures to this day on some of the European maps. This same error, if we recollect aright, is perpetuated in Henry's work, published in 1822.
Montreal River. -- The name Montreal is one which is most frequently given by the voyageurs, in memory of their home, and the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company. Indian Ka-wa-si-gi-mong-sipi, or River of the White Falls, alluding to the fine fall near the mouth of the river and visible from the lake.
Ontonagon River. -- Nagon or nogon, signifies cup or dish, but whence the origin or what the meaning of the whole word, we have never been able satisfactorily to learn. Spelled on the Jesuit map Nan-tounagan.
Keweenaw Point. -- On many maps Ke-weewaiwona. Kiouchounaning, Jesuit map. Pronounced by our Indians, Ki-wi-wai-non-ing, now written and pronounced as above; meaning a portage, or a place where a portage is made. The whole distance of some eighty or ninety miles around the point, being saved by entering Portage lake and following up a small stream, leaving a portage of only about a half a mile to Lake Superior on the other side.
Manitou Island. -- Supposed to be one of the residences of the Indian goblin.
Bete Grise Bay. -- Hardly any name on Lake Superior is written so many different ways, but never as actually pronounced. The invariable pronunciation in the Lake Superior region is as if written " Bay Degree." The name is said to have been given from some gray animal seen in that vicinity, and to be written correctly must be " Baie-de la Bete grise," or " Bete grise bay." The Indian name is Ba-ghi-da-wi-i-ning, a bay where nets are set; there being here excellent fishing ground.
L'Anse. -- Anse is bay. It is applied to many indentations of the coast, but for the most part it has reference to the settlement, at the head of Keweenaw bay.
Manistee River and Lake. -- This name has been generally spelled on the map, Manistique. The name is pronounced by those residing at the mouth of the river, Manistee. It is written also, by Charlevoix, la Manistei. The name, as explained by Indians, means, "A river at whose mouth are islands." There is, at least, one other river of this name emptying into Lake Michigan.
Seul Choix Point. -- The only choice; in allusion to the few spots along the coast suitable for landing. Properly written Seule Choix.
Menomonee River. -- Indian -- equivalent to Wild-rice river. On Jesuit map "Riviere des Oumalouminee, on de la folle avoine."
Escanaba River. -- Flat-rock or Smooth-stone river. Name given in allusion to the geological peculiarities of the river.
Hubbard, in his " Memorials of a Half Century," thus speaks of the naming of Lake St. Clair by La Salle: " The saint, whose name was really bestowed, and whose day is August 12th, is the female Sainte Claire, ' the foundress of the order of Franciscan nuns of the thirteenth century, known as Poor Claires.' Clara d'Assisi was a beautiful daughter of a nobleman of great wealth, who early dedicated herself to a religious life, and went to St. Francis to ask for advice. On Palm Sunday she went to church with her family, dressed in rich attire, where St. Francis cut off her long hair with his own hands, and threw over her the coarse penitential robes of the order. She entered the convent of San Damiano, in spite of the opposition of her family and friends. It is related of her that, on one occasion, when the Saracens came to ravage the convent, she arose from her bed, where she had been long confined, and placed the pyx, which contained the host, upon the threshold; she knelt down and began to sing, whereupon the infidels threw down their arms and fled. Sancta Clara is a favorite saint all over Europe, and her fame in the New World ought not to be spoiled -- like the record of the dead in a battle-gazette -- by a misspelt name."
F. Way, in his work on Rome, published in 1875, says: "Sancta Clara has her tomb at the Minerva, and she dwelt between the Pantheon and the Thermae of Agrippa. The tenement she occupied at the time of her decease still exists, but is not well known. In a little triangular place on or near Via Tor, Argentina, lodged the first convent of the Clarisses. If, crossing the gate-way, you turn to the left of the court, you will face two windows of a slightly raised ground-floor. It was there Innocent IV visited her, and there, on August 12, 1253, listening to the reading of the Passion, in the midst of her weeping nuns, died the first abbess of the Clarisses, and the founder of 4,000 religious houses."
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.