The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Enbridge Oil Pipeline Spill...3 Years Later

Three years ago, an underground oil pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners (Enbridge) ruptured and leaked over a million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into a creek just east of where I live. The creek (Talmadge Creek) flowed into the Kalamazoo River which flows through the center of my town, Battle Creek. In the early days of the leak, it smelled like every road in the county had just been paved with hot asphalt. But it was just the stench from the lighter parts of the oil evaporating off the river into the air. 

While some of the oil was captured in booms and skimmed off the top of the water, the heavier part of the oil sank to the bottom of the river. Enbridge skimmed the rivers, then spent the second year agitating the riverbed to liberate the heavier portion and gather it for disposal. 

Then, Enbridge tried to walk away from the site 
saying it was taken care of.

That's when the EPA again tested the riverbed and estimated that at least 80,000 gallons (and as much as three times that amount) still remains submerged in the river.

So, the clean-up of the largest pipeline spill in America's history is in its third year. Sections of the river are closed, heavy machinery and conveyance piping to remove the toxic sludge will be brought in and assembled.

This spill contaminated 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River...which flows into Lake Michigan. The spill was contained before it reached the Great Lake, but it did contaminate Lake Morrow about 80 miles inland from Lake Michigan.

For insight into the tar sands mining operation in Alberta where this toxic, sludgy form of petroleum is mined, watch this Ted Talk

For the latest on clean-up efforts in the Kalamazoo River, go here.

Enbridge is working to DOUBLE the amount of tar sands oil they  move through pipelines to refineries in Michigan and Ohio. 
Read about it here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Battle of Lake Erie Reenactment

"I am Josiah Briggs!"

...or I will be him (briefly) for the historic reenactment of the Battle of Lake Erie this Labor Day! Josiah Briggs was an American private who served on the schooner Scorpion in this historic naval battle. 

This historic clash marked the first time the British Navy ever lost a battle. The Americans captured the entire squadron of British ships.

Commodore Perry wrote the famous message to his superiors to tell of the Victory:

"We have met the enemy and they are ours!"

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island

It is perfect timing to have this historic reenactment take place when I am embarking on my third Great Lakes Adventure, this time exploring many of the islands of the Great Lakes! This experience will be part of my third book, 


which will be published by Crickhollow books of Milwaukee in 2015.

Learn more about this historic event at:

And about my participation HERE

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tales from the Book Tour: 4 Events in 4 Days!

I traveled Michigan's midsection this week touring with my book. It's always fun to meet people who care about our Great Lakes!  I had events in Glen Arbor, Alpena, Big Rapids and East Tawas.

Alpena Public Library

I also had time to poke around the old Rockport Mine for fossils.

Rockhounding at Rockport Mine

Pier at Rockport Mine

I spoke to the Rock, Gem and Mineral Club in Big Rapids. They meet at Ferris State University.

Science building at Ferris State

Petoskey stone (in the rough)

Boots, Books, and ROCKS 

Lecture venue in East Tawas (sponsored by the Friends of the Library in East Tawas)

Thanks to everyone who came out to hear me read or give a talk about our Great Lakes!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Kayaking to Power Island (in Grand Traverse Bay)

Here is another island I've explored on my 

Did you know that there are over 30,000 islands in the Great Lakes and their connecting waters?

Sunday, August 4, 2013


One of the components of my new adventure
[A 1000-Mile Great Lakes ISLAND Adventure]
is to explore and take part in research projects 
on Great Lakes islands.

In July, I had the privilege of assisting
 with the conservation of the endangered 

This diminutive shorebird has been dwindling in numbers due to loss of habitat and increased predation.

The majority of the Great Lakes population of piping plovers nests in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This year there were nine nests on North Manitou Island
 and one on South Manitou. 

Male piping plover on South Manitou Island

I spent three days on South Manitou watching for the nesting pair there and their chicks.  

Then, I went to North Manitou Island to assist the naturalist Alice Van Zoeren in keeping track of the population there.

Dimmick's Point is closed during nesting season

Using the big scope to find

and identify the little birds

Naturalist, Alice Van Zoeren, near a nest exclosure

Since this bird is endangered, there is funding in place to help restore their numbers. One of the most effective tools researchers have is to identify the nest early and protect them from predators with an exclosure (called that because its function is to keep things out). Adult birds can get in and out to take care of the nests, but predators cannot get at the eggs. 

This intervention alone has increased the hatching success from ~30% to over 90%. Researchers will also take steps to collect any eggs that are abandoned and transport them to a biological station in Pellston -- run by the University of Michigan -- where eggs are incubated and chicks taken care of until they can be released into the wild again.

This is a piping plover nest (no eggs)

Dimmick's Point on North Manitou Island

Watching over the piping plovers was fascinating, difficult work.
The full story of my island adventures will be in my next book:

There are three birds in this shot. Can you find them all?