Looking more like a ship's prow plowing through the ice, the Grand Haven, Michigan fog signal building endures another winter on Lake Michigan. Enveloped in ice formed by waves and spray during a winter storm, the fog building is also the outer lighthouse in a set of range lights standing guard at the mouth of the Grand River. The longest river in Michigan, the Grand empties into Lake Michigan at Grand Haven, the pier and lighthouses mark the entrance to the Grand Haven port.
At a height of 35 feet, the lighthouse on top of the fog signal building was built with a sixth order Fresnel lens. The building was moved to the end of the pier in 1907, and the concrete "prow" was added in the 1920's to help divert Lake Michigan's waves away from the building.
Plenty of visitors walked along the pier to view the ice on this relatively warm, winter afternoon. A few ventured out around the fog signal building to experience the icy view firsthand. Never wanting to walk on the drift ice or shelf ice, I was assured by local residents that the concrete pier extended nearly six feet from the building, thus allowing us to walk around without fear of falling through the ice.
Dozens of other visitors ignored warnings and walked out hundreds of feet onto the shelf ice, some with children in their arms. According to a Grand Haven police officer, 911 was automatically dialed three times over the weekend, when visitors accidentally pulled the safety cord on one of the life rings along the pier. The response time for the Coast Guard, according to the officer, could be as long as two hours, because the port was frozen in, and rescue swimmers would need to be dispatched from another station.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, January 21, 2015