Saturday, October 4, 2008

The laker and the lighthouse

Yesterday the lake freighter John G. Munson stood in past the historic lighthouse at Ontonagon, Michigan, to tie up for offloading at the Smurfit-Stone paper mill quay. In its heyday the lighthouse's navigation beacon comforted mariners on Lake Superior; today the Munson shores up the town's fragile economy with seasonal deliveries of coal for Ontonagon's largest employer.


  1. Beautiful picture.

    How do you know when the ships are coming into town? I would love to go down and see one up close.

  2. Pure luck. I just happened to be looking out at the lake while the Munson was steaming toward the harbor. Then I jumped into the car and drove into town, and arrived about five minutes before the Munson slowly went past the lighthouse.

    A sheriff's department car arrived just as I did. Probably the sheriff knows when the Munson is coming in but I don't know if that knowledge is confidential. Don't see why that would be. Ontonagon is not exactly a terrorist target, is it?

  3. Hah. Another wrinkle for Steve Martinez. How does the Sheriff comply with Homeland Security demands? Aren't ports at risk? Is he writing a grant to improve security at your harbor? After all, a foreign country is right over there.

  4. Don't be so sure about that not being a terrorist target. Good place for a boat landing.

    I can't tell you how many times I've sat on a part bench in the Ont. Twp Park and thought how easy it would be for someone to land here and have access to the rest of the country south of here.

    All it would take is one person locally who knew the routine of the police. Like the time (the wee hours of the morning) that the sheriff dept stops at the hospital for coffee and goodies (for the story line perhaps even an affair with one of the nurses?). Or the driving route of the State Police, even as a kid growing up here we heard they drove 'around Ontonagon county' by making one big circle by way of the main highways. So figure out when the highways are police free and make a break for it. If they were coordinated they could be in Wisconsin in an hour easy, they have plenty of options, highway 45 goes all the way to the coast south of here and highway 2 heads straight to the west into the sunset.

    With a well timed landing a boat could be abandoned just about anywhere and it not even questioned for hours, probably days and they could be anywhere by the time anyone even thinks twice about the boat.

    So I will stay anonymous b/c of the content of this post.

  5. You're quite right that terrorists could land along the lakeshore, at Ontonagon or elsewhere. Rumrunners brought in booze all during Prohibition.

    The question is why they would want to come in that way, or need to. The ports of New York and Philadelphia and San Francisco, just for three, are porous as hell. Those shipping containers are rarely if ever examined -- there are just not enough agents to do so.

    Canada's immigration police are not as lax as we like to think, either.

    I'm not sure that the deputy sheriff who meets the Munson when she comes in is doing so because of Homeland Security. Probably he's there to keep rubberneckers away.

    That coal comes in from Sandusky, Ohio, by way of the Soo Locks, which are carefully watched.

    It's possible -- just not plausible.