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Around the Circle This Week: May 26, 2022

Cruisin’ the Long Weekend: The long U.S. Memorial Day weekend will feature a few new ships in our Big Lake ports as the cruise ship season gets under way. On Friday, the 700-foot Viking Octantis, with a crew of about 250 and nearly 400 passengers, will visit Thunder Bay at the Pool 6 area of the port. The Visit Thunder Bay page on Facebook reminds boatwatchers that the site is regulated and can’t be visited, but a great view might be seen from Hillcrest Park, about which Bob Berg did a story for us. The ship also will visit at Silver Islet in Ontario, and Gary Rinne of TBNewswatch tells us some passengers may be seeing the “underside” of Lake Superior, thanks to two submersibles on the ship. Its the first cruise ship to Thunder Bay in about a decade and the submersibles are certainly something new. “Each takes six passengers at a time, who are placed in revolving seats that provide 270-degree views below the surface,” Gary writes. Jim Zim, a popular YouTube videographer, posted his experience on a Viking Octantis submarine while in the Caribbean. On Monday, the Octantis heads into Duluth, arriving under the Aerial Lift Bridge sometime between 6-7 a.m. CT – this is an estimate, not a guarantee, boatwatchers! Passengers will afford themselves of the new customs facility within the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) and will take shuttle buses for Duluth excursions. Details of the cruise can be found on the Viking website. There will be nine visits of cruise ships to Lake Superior ports this summer from now into September.

Limiting Lifts: The Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula today begins a temporary deviation of operating regulations that resemble the rules for the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth. Under approval of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Portage bridge will open on the hour and at the half hour daily, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. except on federal holidays. During this trial period through Sept. 6, the bridge will still open on signal to allow passage of any vessel more than 300 feet in length or any time five or more vessels gather to request an opening. “Having the openings restricted to these scheduled times should help to create predictability for motorists to plan their travel,” according to MDOT Ishpeming Transportation Service Center Manager Rob Tervo. “The Portage Canal is a federally regulated waterway. So any permanent changes in operating schedule must be approved by the Coast Guard through a formal rulemaking process.” Throughout the summer, the Coast Guard will be accepting public comment on the deviation. Speaking of the Portage Lift Bridge … mark your calendars for June June 17 when the American Society of Civil Engineers will dedicate the bridge as a national historic engineering landmark, reports the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau Facebook page. It’s all part of Bridgefest, June 16-19.

Boat Refloat: At least one of the historic tugs that succumbed to flooding this spring has been refloated, reports David Schauer, who also took this photo. The Lake Superior, a privately owned tug once the property of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was refloated by a team at Wren Works on Monday. It has developed a serious list and was much below water earlier this spring. Another historic tug, the James Whalen, suffered much the same fate in Thunder Bay. We have not yet found on update on its status.

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Museum Ship Season Openers: Support your local museum ships, wherever you are. This week the Alexander Henry, a retired Canadian Coast Guard cutter, started a limited season opener in Thunder Bay, the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society announced. Into the fall, it will be open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., for tours of the ship and grounds. Tours of just the grounds, which feature two locally made Brill Buses, are also available. We did a story on the Henry when it first became a museum ship. In Duluth, the William A. Irvin museum freighter has already opened, with tours Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The Irvin was part of a story we did on the Great Lakes Fleet, based in Duluth. Lake Superior’s other retired freighter turned museum ship, the Valley Camp in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., is currently open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Mondays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays, but will expand hours on June 17. For some fun, the podcast Haunted Road with Amy Bruni did an episode on the ghosts of the Valley Camp with local Sault paranormal investigators, Tim Ellis and Brad Blair.

History in Motion: We have a few videos to suggest watching with history, “historic moments or just some wacky local fun. Check these out:

The St. Louis River Alliance posted its most recent Water Wednesdays talk with local historians and researchers Heidi Bakk-Hansen and Gina Temple-Rhodes about the history of the St. Louis River, recorded on Wednesday (May 25). They discussed the history of the estuary, including early inhabitants, explorers, industrialization and the 1970s cleanup efforts and formation of Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Heidi is a local historian, teacher and writer who has spent hours on the river and estuary “in her little green kayak” and Gina is a self-described history nerd and self-employed oral historian who has worked for the National Park Service and WLSSD.

The Minneapolis-Saint Paul, commissioned on Saturday (May 21) in Duluth, sailed away into its future. Our own Canal Park Gifts manager Bekah Rush created a great time-lapse video (with music) of its departure that we posted. The Duluth Harborcam, operated by Dennis O’Hara, posted a 15-minute video showing the whole departure, along with escorted by tugs Edward H and Helen H (and a littler follower).

And finally, Thunder Bay photographer Chris Artist posted his “pothole inspector” video of a groundhog making the road rounds. We must add – Get out of the road, little guy!

A Whole New Meaning to ‘Photo Bombing’: On Maritime Day (May 22), the 148th Fighter Wing of the National Guard based in Duluth buzzed over the freighter Michipicoten on its own working tour of duty. “The Bulldogs of the 148th Fighter Wing are proud to live and serve near the greatest of Great Lakes and salute our partners in the maritime industry,” the Fighter Wing posted.

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Make Plans: Here are a few events coming up soon to put on a fun-do list. Search your local listings for more Memorial Day favorites and parades:


Friday, May 27: The 15th annual Sven Heikkinen Memorial Golf Tournament at the Sault Ste Marie Country Club benefits the United Way of the Eastern Upper Peninsula. It is named for a former board member. “Each year, we come together to celebrate Sven’s life and love for others. It gives us a chance to be grateful for the work he did throughout his life while catching up with friends, old and new alike. No particular golfing skill level is necessary, this is a fun day and works great as a team builder or a way to relax and have a good time with family and friends.” Call to register today, though: (906) 632-3700!

Saturday-Sunday, May 28-29: Enjoy two outdoor events this weekend in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The The Back 9 Endurance Run is a 12/24-hour endurance run at the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Runners wind their way through a 3.5(-ish) mile loop that includes the Lodge’s “Back 9 trails,” golf course, hills, a forest with spectacular views of Brockway Mountain and, likely, bit of mud and a bug or two. Also this weekend, Ride the Keweenaw kicks off the singletrack bike season with turns at Adventure Mine, the Michigan Tech Trails, Churning Rapids area backcountry trails cand the “twisty, turny and all-ages” Swedetown Trails.


Friday, May 27: Betsy Bowen Studio and Gallery in Grand Marais hosts a Season Opener from 4-6 p.m. You can see fresh paintings and woodcuts from Betsy, as well as pottery, jewelry, and much more by local and regional makers. Refreshments, too.

Friday, May 27: Join in the annual Mayors’ Bike Ride and Walk, starting noon outside Duluth’s City Hall with information and speakers (including Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Superior Mayor Jim Paine and Peter Wagenius from the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. Then bikes will head City Hall to the One Roof Brewery Creek Apartment Site and walkers will stroll to Sixth Avenue East and learn about future plans. Register for free, but a boxed lunch will be $14.

Friday, May 27: Browse more than 25 varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers that have been started for you during the AICHO annual Garden Plant Sale from 3-6 p.m. at Niiwin Indigenous Foods Market. Packets of North Circle seeds will also be on sale on Friday, but can also be found at the Indigenous First Art & Gift Shop at the American Indian Community Housing Organization main building. Starting Saturday (June 25), AICHO will launch its season of Food & Art Markets, which will occur every two weeks in the One Roof Parking Lot.

Saturday, May 28: Le Grand du Nord gravel bike race takes riders on a memorable bumpy ride for 110, 55 or 26 miles in northern Minnesota. Put on by Heck of the North Productions.

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Saturday, May 28: The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior will host a free community picnic and military vehicle show. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with music from Sounds Unlimited, kids’ games and prizes, bounce house, a free hot dog lunch to the first 1,000 and special $5 admission to the museum, A Huey Helicopter Landing at 10 a.m. and departing at noon, a military vehicle and historical weapons show, a K-9 Demonstration at 12:30 p.m. and the Douglas County Humane Society will have animals for adoption. Bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic by the harbor.

Wednesday, June 1: Washburn Area Chamber of Commerce kicks off the summer’s Music in the Park at Wikdal Park with The Whitecaps starting at 6 p.m.

Save the Dates, June 4-5: Enjoy any of Wisconsin’s 49 state parks, 15 state forests, 44 state trails, 84,000 miles of rivers and streams, roughly 15,000 lakes with no fee during the Wisconsin DNR’s Free Fun Weekend (the first weekend in June). You can fish without a license, too.


Thru Sunday, May 29: Campbell Amusements continues its carnival at the Soo Pee Wee Arena through this weekend with rides, games and food your mom might not approve (but is so good).

Friday-Sunday, May 27-29: The annual Hike for Hospice Northwest in Thunder Bay will be a combination of do it when you can hike through the weekend or join the in-person event at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Military Field, Current River Park. Participants are invited to hike around Boulevard Lake.) Hike for Hospice is a nationwide event hosted by hospices and palliative care organizations

And One More for Memorial Day: The staff at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior were contacted a couple months back from a family in Australia inquiring about a set of airplanes carried at the center gift shop. “After chatting via social media,” posted the center along with a video on Wednesday, “our Curator, Briana, Volunteer Debbie and our Director, John, were able to mail Kait Britton and her son Cash the planes and some extra goodies for his birthday! We hope to see Cash and his family at the Center for a special tour sometime! This was such a fun experience to be a part of.”

Photo & graphic credits: Viking Cruises; Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau; David Schauer; Lakehead Transportation Museum Society; David Schauer; Chris Artist; 148th Fighter Wing; Ride the Keweenaw; Betsy Bowen; Richard I. Bong Veterans Memorial Center; Campbell Amusements; Richard I. Bong Veterans Memorial Center;

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