Ten Fun Facts: Lake Superior


Rocky Shoreline of Lake Superior

Each week I set out to research and document ten "fun facts" on a topic loosely based on the two books I've reviewed that week.  "Loosely" being the operative word. 

This week I reviewed I Have Something to Tell You, Chasten Glezman Buttigieg's memoir of his life so far, and Michael Schumacher's The Trial of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a book that helps readers understand the wreck of the fated ship through the words of those most familiar and who testified at the Marine Board Inquiry into its sinking.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was a Great Lakes ore carrier which sank in Lake Superior during a severe storm in November of 1975. 

Chasten Glezman was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan. In the very first chapter of Chasten's book he talks about going to "Fish Camp", the annual trip he, his dad and brothers took to their mother's uncle's cabin in the woods outside of Baraga, Michigan. Baraga is a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior's Keweenaw Bay.

[For those not from the American middle northwest (aka the Great Lakes Region), Lake Superior is one of the five Great Lakes - more like freshwater seas - which together contain over 20% of the world's surface freshwater. The others are Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan and Erie.]

More than 13 years separate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the birth of Chasten Glezman. But both of them have connections to the greatest of the Great Lakes - Superior. So, for this week, here are ten fun facts about Lake Superior.

Lake Superior

  1. She Tweets - If you are on Twitter you may already know that Lake Superior has her own Twitter account. Known for her dry and often biting sense of humor, Lake Superior has proclaimed herself the G.L.O.A.T (Greatest Lake of All Time) and maintains that, without her "they would be called the Good Lakes".
  2. She's Big - Some stats about the G.L.O.A.T. - by area at 31,700 square miles, she is the largest freshwater lake in the world. By volume Superior has more water than the other four Great Lakes combined. With an average depth of 483 feet, she is 1,332 feet deep at her maximum. She has 2,726 miles of shoreline. But she's kind of remote - though Superior has the largest land drainage area of the Great Lakes at 49,300 sq. miles, she has the smallest population living in her drainage basin, at under a half a million souls.
  3. She Can Tell Big Fish Stories - The largest fish in Lake Superior and her rivers is the Lake Sturgeon. Lake Sturgeon can grow to more than 100 pounds and longer than 40 inches. But it's Lake Trout, as opposed to Sturgeon, that really excite Great Lakes fisherman. In 2019, what may have been the largest lake trout ever caught in Minnesota was reeled on board a boat in Lake Superior. The trout was 45.5 inches long, but was not weighed before being released back into the lake, so did not officially set a record. It's estimated weight, however, was over 50 pounds.
  4. Her Waves Can Get Very Big - The highest wave height recorded by buoy on Lake Superior was 28.8 feet in 2017. However, some theories on the Edmund Fitzgerald's sinking speculate that she may have faced a very angry Superior with wave heights up to 45 feet.
  5. And Her Boats Are Big Too - The "Queen of the Lakes" is the Paul R Tregurtha which at 1,013 feet is the longest freighter to sail the Great Lakes, and one of thirteen over 1000' long. In another category of boat altogether, the 215 foot long, $150 million dollar "super yacht" Hampshire was the talk of the town when it pulled into port in Houghton, Michigan in August of 2019.
  6. The Edmund Fitzgerald is only one of 200 (or 550, or 6,000) - The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum estimates that 200 ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, lie under the waters of Lake Superior's Shipwreck Coast (between Munising and White Point, Michigan). They also estimate that there are 550 shipwrecks in all of Lake Superior, and some 6,000 in the whole of the Great Lakes. 30,000 mariners have lost their lives in Great Lakes shipwrecks.
  7. Her Frigid Waters Preserve the Dead - Mariners who perish below Superior's waves, along with the ships they sank in, can be preserved for long periods in the cold fresh waters of the lake. Before the wreck site of the S.S. Kamloops was protected as a national cultural treasure, divers would report sightings of the bodies of the 13 crewmen who perished aboard her. One in particular got the nickname of "Grandpa" and was reputed to float along, following divers who entered the wreck, causing some to believe the wreck site to be haunted.
  8. International Lake of Mystery? - Lake Superior is so big that she's international. Her southern shore is in the United States, while her northern shore is in Canada. But it's really no mystery that she's long enough from east to west to straddle two time zones - her eastern end being in the Eastern zone, and her western end being in the Central zone. She's so long east to west that in summertime the sun sets 35 minutes later in Duluth on the western shore than it does in Sault Ste. Marie on the eastern shore.
  9. She's Clean - Lake Superior has always had the reputation as the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Average underwater visibility is often sited as over 25 feet, and 100 feet in some places. However, over the last 20 years her sister Great Lakes Huron and Michigan have cleaned up their acts and are now considered clearer than Superior. This is not necessarily a good thing for the ecosystems in those Lakes.
  10. Despite Her Cleanliness, She Has Some Stains - Along the southern shore of Lake Superior east of Munising is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - 15 miles of towering multicolored cliffs which are absolutely beautiful by boat or kayak. The color in the sandstone cliffs is left behind after dripping water deposits iron and other minerals within the sandstone. So even her stains are beautiful.
So there you have it - ten fun facts about the greatest of the Great Lakes. Do you have any Great Lakes facts to share? Leave a comment below.