National Geographic : 1993 Dec
Billy Blackwell, who traces his ancestors to the Ojibwa who loved this land. We sat on the lake's Minnesota shore, listening to waves murmur against the rocks. "It provided our grandfathers with food to eat, water to drink, water to bathe in," said Billy, who wears a dark ponytail and gazes across the water. "It has a soul." It is easy to understand why the Ojibwa fought the Sioux for rights to Superior's often bitter cold shores. French Canadians who paddled Superior's mountainous blue waves in birchbark canoes called it le lac superieur, simply referring to its location above the better known Great Lakes Huron and Michigan. Superior it remains, in any translation. Today some 600,000 people live along the lake's 1,700-mile shoreline (map, page 77), but more than half are clustered in Thunder Bay, Duluth, Marquette, and Sault Ste. Marie. That leaves plenty of real estate for wildlife, unspoiled views, and water so clear that as one fisherman told me, "A mile from shore I just dip out a cupful and drink it." Superior is the broadest freshwater lake in the world. It could swallow Scotland with 1,300 square miles to spare or tuck within its shoreline New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and most of Connecticut combined. Something set adrift could float 160 miles across the lake from Rossport, Ontario, to Munising, Michigan, or nearly 400 miles from Duluth in the west to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie. Waterlogged, it could sink 1,333 feet at the deepest point. That's only a quarter as deep as Baikal in Siberia, but the volume of Lake Superior is still awesome. Tipped and emptied like a washbasin, it would cover both North and South America with a foot of water. Those who live on its shores boast about its size as Texans boast about their state, and they com plain about the weather as farmers do. "We have large areas as close to unspoiled wilderness as you'll find anywhere in the lower 48 states," said a proud Minnesotan. "Right there on the number three tee sat the biggest lynx I've ever seen," bragged a golfer at Marathon, Ontario. "It has the clearest and coldest water of any of the Great Lakes," said Christine Olsenius, former vice president of the Lake Superior Center in Duluth, a freshwater education cen ter. And maybe the wildest, according to Jim Marshall, mining-equipment executive and "wreckie," a student of lost ships. "There are 350 known wrecks. Fall storms create 30 foot waves." If that seems ocean-like, the events that created Superior in fact nearly made it one. "We believe a volcanic plume came from deep Son of a Swede, Louis During, 84, of Superior, Wisconsin, reflects on a life spent trapping coyotes, repairing rail roads, and loading grain elevators. His pioneer father's name was Jonsson, but "therewere so many Jonssons in the log ging camps, he just changed his name."
1993 Nov 30