National Geographic : 1973 Aug
naturalist, explained: "This part of Ontario is only a day's drive from some of your biggest cities. It is a very special thing for people from Chicago or Detroit to come up here where they can still see lynx, moose, and timber wolf." I, too, found it a very special thing. I shed my shoes to wade in and scoop up some of Lake Superior's unprocessed drinking water. I turned inland to watch the morning mist rise over little Rabbit Blanket Lake; yes, the mist did seem to form a blanket of rabbit fur. And I strolled Superior's cobble beach, searching (fruitlessly) for one of the great nestlike pits excavated centuries ago by Ojibwa Indians, perhaps for some long-forgotten rite. The wilderness vanishes at the lake's far western corner, where Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, have teeming port facilities. About 40 million tons of cargo pass through this harbor each year. Oceangoing freighters-"salties"-tie up at the general cargo docks. Their foreign flags and the names of far-off ports lettered on their sterns give the port a romantic air. But most of the ships here are lakers, whose long, black hulls will never glisten white with ocean spray. They tie up at the nation's largest ore-loading dock, then carry off their cargo to steel mills along the lakes. Almost as long as three football fields, the newest lakers can swallow 50,000 tons or more. When the iron rich ore has been unloaded at a distant mill, the ships speed back empty for a new cargo. Older, slower vessels may undergo a quick cleaning and return riding low in the water with a load of coal. Should a Lake Be Used as a Dump? Federal and state governments, increasing ly aware of environmental problems, are strengthening pollution-control laws. Freight ers can no longer flush oily wastes. Since mu nicipal sewage is a major problem, treatment plants are being upgraded along the shores. Industry is under pressure, too, and much of it focuses on one plant 60 miles northeast of Duluth. There the Reserve Mining Company, owned by Republic Steel and Armco, pro cesses taconite, an iron-bearing rock, and dumps tons of pulverized waste into the lake. Company officials feel they are caught in a vise of changing values that casts them in an unfavorable role. "When we began oper ations 18 years ago, we satisfied every gov ernment requirement," said Edward Schmid, Angling for answers to ecological prob lems, fisheries expert Howard Tanner lands a coho salmon (left); in the 1960's he led in introducing the fish into the lakes. Cohos eat alewives, whose soaring numbers crowded out other species after their enemies were killed by sea lampreys (pages 170-71). Banded but undaunted, a fledgling her ring gull nips a biologist who seeks the cause of a sharp decrease in the species' numbers in northwest Lake Michigan. After a cornfield snack, Canada geese take wing near Horicon National Wildlife Ref uge, northwest of Milwaukee (next pages). In decades past, many of the wetlands that attract the migrating birds were drained for farms. Fortunately for the geese, the peaty topsoil discouraged cultivation, and much of the marsh area has been restored. The Great Lakes: Is It Too Late?