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Cruises, Rising Waters and Ship Safety | Episode 1005

Cruises, Rising Waters and Ship Safety

In the fifth episode of the Great Lakes Now monthly show, explore three of the region’s timely issues. Travel aboard one of the growing number of cruise ships as passengers visit First Nation communities on a Canadian island in Lake Huron. See who is winning and losing from the record-high water levels around the lakes, and learn more about the latest technology on freighters and how the environment and ship crews are benefiting.


Watch Live on DPTV

Tuesday, August 27 at 7:30 PM


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This Month on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1005.



This Lake Huron island, once a booming port and tourist stop, is making its comeback with cruises

As the gateway port to Manitoulin Island, Little Current sits on the edge of the waters connecting the North Channel and Georgian Bay. In the early 1900s, it developed as a busy port due in large part to the lumber industry. 

Recently, the return of cruises to the area is revitalizing the tourism industry. From roughly 10 visits from cruise ships in 2010 to 29 scheduled stops this year, cruise-ship tourism is picking up. Part of Little Current’s draw and what makes it stand out among Great Lakes ports is the authentic indigenous cultural education provided by six First Nations that call Manitoulin home. Those populations are about 40 percent of the island’s total people.

“I was looking for a combination vacation – that had a relaxation component as well as an interest component and like a lot of people on the East Coast – I’ve been to many other countries but haven’t explored much of the United States as I would like to,” says Merle Goldstein, a cruise passenger.”

To see if your favorite Great Lakes ports are cruise stops, click HERE.

Great Lakes Now Contributor Ian Wendrow has been writing about the growing cruise ship industry on the Great Lakes. Find his work HERE.

Rising Waters


All five Great Lakes are at or near record-high levels and have been for months.

Heavy precipitation has brought a lot of water into the Great Lakes basin, and the results are visible all along the shoreline: submerged docks, flooded roads, vanishing beaches, water lapping at some coastal homes. Many frustrated property owners will have to repair or rebuild after the waters go down.

“We are not only losing beach but losing coastal habitat that is home to waterfowl, coastal animals and rare plants as well,” says Ethan Theuerkauf, coastal geologist at the Illinois State Geological Survey.

But for the shipping industry, the high water is beneficial. Freighters that would otherwise have to sail partly empty can add cargo, knowing that the deeper water means they won’t run aground in the shallower parts of their routes.

“Over the course of a shipping season, that spells out some real benefits for shipping,” says Jayson Hron, spokesman for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.

To see the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers weekly water level update click HERE.

For North Country Public Radio’s coverage of water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, click HERE.

Great Lakes Now’s Natasha Blakely wrote about lake levels earlier this season. Click HERE to read “Water Levels Could Reach Record Highs This Summer.”

Freighter Technology


As technology improves, so does the safety of ships on the lakes

The 740-foot-long and 78-foot wide CSL Welland regularly traverses the Great Lakes transporting more than millions of pounds of grain from Thunder Bay, Michigan, to Quebec City, Quebec.

Safely navigating a ship that size and weight through locks that are just two feet wider than the ship, around obstacles and in rough weather is made easier with the help of freighter technology.

“Safety of the crew is No. 1, safety in the environment would be No. 2, and then basically it’s the safety of the ship and the CSL’s assets,” says Paul Miller, reserve master of the CSL Welland.

The Welland was designed for low fuel consumption. It used to use 40 tons of fuel a day, but that’s been brought down to less than 20 a day.

“I believe the number is 270 18-wheelers on the road to match one ship that we do in 5 days,” says Captain Wilson Walters of the CSL Welland. “We are as environmentally friendly as you can get.”

For more about freighters and life on freighters, CLICK HERE to watch Great Lakes Now’s previous segment on life aboard the CSL Welland.

Got a question for a Great Lakes freighter captain? Ask it here. >>

WPBS produced this segment in part with support from a Great Lakes Now Local Station Production Grant.

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Have a question about the Great Lakes or life in the region?

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Videos from Episode 1005

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Previous Episodes

The Premiere

Episode 1001

Life on a Lake Erie island, daily activity at a Chicago port, and a look at how Ann Arbor, Michigan deals with industrial chemicals in the city water supply.

Watch the Show

Ships and Shipwrecks

Episode 1002

A 145-year-old Great Lakes mail delivery tugboat, life on a freighter, and shipwrecks in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.

Watch the Show

Fire, Fish and Food

Episode 1003

The 50th anniversary of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River fire, Asian carp in the Great Lakes, and hydroponic farming in Detroit.

Watch the Show

Featured Articles

Digital Credits

The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.

Digital Designer: Shelby Jouppi

Digital Video and Photography: Paul Dzendzel, Rob Green, Miles Holst, Matt Ilas, Bill Kubota, Kevin Morrissey, Sandra Svoboda, James Weir, Jordan Wingrove and Courtesy of Canada Steamship Lines, Daytona Niles, Don Hermanson/Keweenaw Video, Jamie Montague, North Country Public Radio/Emily Russell, Robert Carlisle, The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, Transport Canada, WRVO Public Media, WTTW/Chicago Tonight.

Website Writing: Natasha Blakely, Rob Green, Sandra Svoboda