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First beacon lighting of the season

Posted byLee Radzak on 09 May 2010 | Tagged as: 100th Anniversary, Events, History, Nature, Observations, Seasons

Last Friday evening, May 7, we held the first “First Friday” evening event of the centennial summer celebrations at Split Rock Lighthouse.  The northeast wind and spitting snow made it feel more like November than May but a lot of people showed up for the program by Dennis O’Hara, famed Duluth photographer, and for the beacon lighting at sunset.  His website, www.northernimages.com is really worth looking at.

Of course it was so overcast on Friday that there was no “sunset” to speak of but I lit the beacon at 8:23, the official time of sunset on the North Shore, and kept it on for an hour.  For those who want to get a look at the beacon lit we will be lighting it the first Friday of every month through November.  The programs and speakers require tickets that can be ordered through the Split Rock website but the beacon lightings are open to the public and only require a state park vehicle permit.

raven nest on cliff below lighthouse Even though spring is coming very slowly this far north and this close to the big lake the animals are all ratcheting up their activity.  For the fifth year in a row the same pair of ravens is nesting on the cliff right below the lighthouse.  The young ravens just left the nest over the weekend but are sticking very close to ma and pa.  The ruckus they make beginning at 5:00 a.m. is enough to get me up for a closer look as they cling to the birch trees at the top of the cliff.  There is no sleeping once the ravens are up. 

raven-chick_8may Usually the hummingbirds show up the first week in May so we have had the feeders out for a couple of weeks already.  Should be soon.   Now if that pesky northeast wind off the lake would simmer down we may be able to get some temps above the mid fifties.

Wintering at Split Rock Lighthouse

Posted byLee Radzak on 02 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: 100th Anniversary, Events, History, Nature, Observations, Seasons

ore-boat-in-frost-smoke-6jan04Winter is a quieter time at the lighthouse, and along the North Shore in general.  It seems like this first week of each new year winter wants to get serious about letting us know how far the sun is away from our hemisphere and the temperatures drop like a rock thrown into the lake.  This week the highs might get into single digits above and the lows at night are in the minus teen and twenties.p10700341 


For those hardy folks that make the winter trek to the North Shore over the holidays (and there are an amazing number of people around this week) they can be rewarded with some spectacular conditions and photographs.  This is the month when the full moon rises behind the lighthouse at sunset behind the lighthouse.  Twenty years ago there were only a few people that knew about this or were interested in taking photographs of the moonrise.  For this last moonrise on December 31 at least a dozen photographers who were willing to abide the single digit temperatures they were rewarded with a beautiful moonrise with just the right amount of cloud cover to make the photos more interesting.

Satellite image of lake-effect snows This is also the time of year for lake effect snow.  With the prevailing north or northwest winds in the winter the North Shore gets far less lake effect snow than the south shore of Lake Superior.    From Split Rock you can watch the frigid winds pulling the moisture from the warmer lake in the form of sea-smoke (the old time local commercial fisherman called it “frost-smoke”).  The tendrils of steam rise and move across the lake and as it comes in contact with the higher elevations along the far shore it drops this moisture as very fluffy snow…often feet at at time!  The big lake will be ice free for another month before the water temperature drops enough for it to make ice on calm nights in early February.Sea smoke at -35 degrees F.

The pastel colors of winter sunrises and sunsets, the bright sunlight and steam off the lake, and the quieter traffic does make this time of year a peaceful counterpoint to the hectic summers at the historic site.  But then again, there is planning for the Split Rock centennial to see to.

Christmas at Split Rock

Posted byLee Radzak on 23 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: History, Nature, Observations, Seasons

Children with SnowmanAt Christmas, when our kids were little, they were sure that Santa would find our house because it would be one of his first stops for him because it was right on his way and so close to the North Pole.  In their twenties now, our kids have come to realize that they did indeed grow up in a special place.  The early lightkeepers and their familes had to leave Split Rock in the winter.  Beginning in the 1930’s, with the coming of the North Shore highway, the keepers and their families were allowed to stay year round.  Those children have related to us how thrilled they were to be able to stay through the winters.

Dec 14th - winds at 58mph

With a blizzard and lake effect snow in the forecast for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year it will be a good time to hunker down and enjoy the sights and sounds of Lake Superior.  Then, after the storm settles, it will be time to get out and clear the paths, check all the buildings on the light station, and refill the bird feeders.

Snowy trees at Split Rock's tramway

I thought that this would be a good time to share some winter photos at Split Rock Lighthouse, a time when when the hectic pace of summer is replaced by a blanket of new snow.

Happy Holidays

Mid-winter at dusk

First winter storm at Split Rock

Posted byLee Radzak on 09 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Nature, Observations, Seasons

100-foot cliff at Split Rock LighthouseAfter a mellow November and start to December the first big storm has marched in off the plains and hit the Midwest and the Lake Superior with a wallop.  Only 4-8 inches of snow along the North Shore for this one but so far northwest winds have held steady at up to 42 mph and some big waves are building out on the lake.Ore boat passing Split Rock

A century ago, by late November of  1909, the construction crew working on the light station had left the rock for the winter.  They would return in May of 1910 to complete the lighthouse and install the Fresnel lens. 

Wrapping up the construction season at Split Rock, November 1909.Our plans for the 2010 centennial celebration will continue throughout the winter.  Keep and eye on the Split Rock Lighthouse website for updates to events next summer.

Edmund Fitzgerald Remembered

Posted byLee Radzak on 09 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Events, History, Nature, Observations, Seasons

Edmund FitzgeraldAgain tomorrow night, for the 24th year in a row, we will be holding the Edmund Fitzgerald memorial beacon lighting ceremony at Split Rock Lighthouse.  This year the weather is supposed to be polar opposites of what it was 34 years ago when the mighty Fitz went down in heavy seas during an early winter gale.

This is the event of the year for me and all of the staff at Split Rock that really resonates and brings home the reason for the lighthouse being built on this rocky point.  We enjoy seeing visitors who have become old friends and who have returned to the site each year on November 10 to experience Lake Superior in different weather and with a little different emphasis than a summer visit has.

Split Rock Lighthouse beacon at duskSo, even though the temperature will be in the 50’s and the sun will be out it will still be November.  The sun will reflect off of the lake at a very low angle and it will dip behind Day Hill at 4:37 p.m.  The long dusk allows for the lighthouse beacon to add its glow to what promises to be a glorious sunset.

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