The Calamitous Calumet


Calumet Aground

The big news in the Soo is that the lake boat Calumet (630′) ran aground in the Saint Mary’s River, forcing the closure of the locks. The Marine Traffic app already shows about a dozen freighters waiting for the shipping channel to reopen. The boat ran aground at its bow on Wednesday, near midnight. 

The above photo was taken near Clyde’s burger stand, which is downriver from the locks. If you look closely at it, you can see that the port bow is riding a little higher than the starboard side. The boat is well out of the channel, but when you already have one shipwreck, you certainly don’t want another one to occur, so the Coast Guard is exercising caution. The zodiac in the foreground is a Coast Guard vessel and the one by the stern, I believe, is the contractor’s boat, who deployed the yellow oil spill boom. Currently, there has been no oil leakage.

The Calumet had just offloaded its cargo in the Soo and was in ballast when it grounded. Which begs the question, how are they going to lighten the boat to get it off the rocks? I suppose that the Corps of Engineers could release more water from Lake Superior, with the hope that a rising tide floats all boats. Just saying. 

This is not the Calumet’s first rodeo either. Last year, in another accident, the boat struck a Cleveland restaurant, Shooters, on the Cuyahoga River. All of which begs the question, how did this latest accident occur? What was the captain thinking? To help answer these questions, I offer up the following top ten excuses that the Calumet’s captain could use for running aground:

  1. The sun got in my eyes.
  2. Is starboard on the left-side or the right-side of the boat?
  3. Canadian pirates. (Arrrgh-eh!)
  4. A Soo Locks Boat Tour boat sideswiped me and I ended up in the ditch.
  5. I was sitting right back and telling a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…
  6. Buoys! Buoys! We don’t need no stinking buoys.
  7. Who wants burgers and fries from Clyde’s?
  8. The 1st mate yelled, “rock” and I started jamming on my guitar.
  9. Red and green lights always reminds me of Christmas. 
  10. Iceberg, dead ahead!

Until the Flood


[White] Mask, David Moore, 1971

[White] Mask, David Moore, 1971

Ferguson, Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, two years after these names were first in the news, they still sting the ears. Until the Flood just finished its run at the Saint Louis Repertory Theater. Written by and starring Dael Orlandersmith, this one-woman, one-act play is both short and intense. Ms. Orlandersmith portrays a host of Saint Louisans, black and white, young and old, male and female. Each new voice adds another viewpoint to the events of two summers ago, when long simmering problems came to a boil and thrust Saint Louis into the unwanted glare of the national spotlight. In the intervening two years some good has come out of that summer’s tragedy, the Black Lives Matter movement was born and has gone national, federally mandated local municipal reform has corrected some of the most egregious inequities that helped to precipitate the troubles in  Ferguson and this play that reminds us once again, less we forget, of our community’s feelings of both outrage and shame about the events in Ferguson.

Happy Anniversary!


Harry and Bubs - 1954

Harry and Bubs – 1954

Happy 63rd anniversary, Bubs and Harry!

Anne has been busy scanning family photos, in-between making plans to head north again. In addition to her looking forward to returning to Michigan, to see family and to summer at her cabin, the weather here is providing plenty of additional incentive to get the heck out of Dodge. The last time that I checked it is 101 ˚F, but don’t worry, because it only feels like 115 ˚F. We should get a momentary cool down tomorrow, which will be much appreciated, because we would like to get outside some this weekend.

A good rule for rocket experimenters to follow is this: always assume that it will explode. Astronautics Magazine, 1937

There was the odor of schadenfreude at Spacely Sprockets this morning. One of our competitors in the launch vehicle business, SpaceX had some misfortune. Their Falcon 9 rocket after successfully delivering two of Mister Spacely’s satellites into orbit had a problem. The Falcon 9 rocket features a reusable booster that lands vertically on the landing pad, as if it was a rocket out of some 1950s science fiction yarn. This rocket has successfully blasted-off and landed four times, but on this fifth landing attempt it experienced a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly, as they say in the parlance. They even have an acronym version of this, RUD, in short it blew-up. We at Spacely’s have been watching the progress of Elon Musk and his team with a combination of admiration and apprehension. They are doing great stuff, but yesterday’s accident amply demonstrated that they’re not quite yet ready for prime time.

Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department. — Tom Lehrer

Oh, Mercy!


STL Bomb Squad

STL Bomb Squad

Anne had a routine medical exam today at Mercy Hospital, formerly St. Johns, where Dave was born. When she showed up for her appointment, what she didn’t know was that the hospital was in the middle of a bomb scare. She was slightly inconvenienced, when a police officer directed her to detour away from the epicenter of the incident. Fortunately for her, her appointment was at the opposite end of the hospital campus from the site of the bomb scare. Waiting room personnel were watching events unfold on live TV, while Anne waited for her appointment. I-270 was closed for several hours and many people who were stranded out on the highway were highly inconvenienced. Including one pregnant women, who went into labor and had to be evacuated by the local fire chief. News reports are still sketchy. Involved is a 50 year-old man who had come to the hospital’s ER for a mental health evaluation. ER personnel noticed two suspicious packages in his company. An ER person carried a duffel bag out of the ER and away from the building. The man carried a second smaller package further away and placed it on the hospital’s helipad. He waited there until the authorities arrived. The bomb squad ‘disabled’ this package and examined the duffel bag, but no information about what they found has been released. Stay tuned though, news is at five and I’m sure that this story will lead. It will be interesting to see how this will all play out, especially in light of yesterday’s Orlando massacre. UPDATE: It was a false alarm.

Getting Your Ducks in a Row


Merganser Ducklings at Sunset

Merganser Ducklings at Sunset

On NPR tonight, there was an interesting science article. It started off describing the “first-night effect”. This is what researchers call people’s inability to get a good night’s sleep on the first night that they are in unfamiliar surroundings. I’ve suffered from this syndrome for years. I notice it most acutely while on business trips. I’ve always attributed it to my nerves about the next day’s meeting, but apparently it is much more primordial than that. Sleep researchers noticed that their subjects had trouble sleeping in the lab on the first night too. Hooking the subjects up to probes they found that slow-wave activity, which appears in deep sleep was more prominent in the left hemisphere than in the right. Their subjects were effectively resting only half their brain. This is the first time that this behavior has been observed in humans, but ornithologists have seen this in birds for years.

When a duck rests with another duck on either side of it that duck sleeps with both eyes closed, but a duck at the end of the row closes only one eye and leaves the eye away from the other ducks open. Unlike ducks, humans are not subjected to many marauding predators at the Hilton Garden Inn, but our brains have not adapted to this changed situation. For the next day’s big presentation, the best that you can do then is drink lots of coffee in the morning. Pictured are Red-breasted Mergansers at sunset on Lake Superior.