Making a Splash

click to enlarge
waves pound the South Haven Lighthouse
South Haven Lighthouse
South Haven, Michigan

An approaching winter storm churns up Lake Michigan sending waves crashing into the South Haven lighthouse. The waves created splashes over 45 feet high while I was there - probably much higher that night when the winds increased to 40 mph!

This splash and spray combined with the bitter cold air is what causes this lighthouse to become covered in ice over a foot thick! I'll bet after this storm and the below zero temperatures, it's covered once again.

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The Fury of Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan pounding the frozen shoreline

A dangerous product of winter along the lake is shelf ice. This ice is formed along the shoreline and can pile into mounds up to15 or 20 feet in height (probably more where it's colder). It's really dangerous as you're walking along the shore because you don't know you're walking on it. The mounds of ice are located at the edge of the ice and water, so you think you're walking on shore because this ice also contains sand blown by the wind - but you're actually walking on the ice.

I encountered this last year as I was walking along the Chicago shoreline. I wanted to walk out toward the large piles of ice along the shore and figured it would be safe up to the mounds. As I walked out on the flat, smooth sandy surface, I noticed an absence of stones and rocks and immediately backed up to an area with lots of stones and pebbles. It seemed to me that the wind had no problem carrying sand out onto the ice, but it couldn't carry rocks and stones, so I was walking on ice. I was right, and lucky I didn't fall in.

Now when I visit the shore, I look for obvious signs of solid ground and don't venture past them.

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