Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1022: History, Mystery and Chemistry

A mysterious decades-old home movie chronicles a Great Lakes freighter journey, and our team of experts answer some questions about the film. Can our audience help with more information? And a journalist wondered how much PFAS was in his blood, his home, and his cat so he tested everything and shared the results.

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History, Mystery and Chemistry- Episode 1022

A mysterious decades-old home movie chronicles a Great Lakes freighter journey, and our team of experts answer some questions about the film. Can our audience help with more information? And a journalist wondered how much PFAS was in his blood, his home, and his cat so he tested everything and shared the results.



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Tuesday, February 23, at 7:30 PM


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In the Month of February on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1022.

An unidentified freighter takes on cargo in an old home movie. Photo courtesy of Prelinger Archives.


Watch The Feature

Freighter Mystery

SEGMENT 1 | Duluth, Minnesota; The Soo Locks; Rogers City, Michigan; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Detroit, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; Conneaut, Ohio

When we ran across an old home movie shot aboard a Great Lakes freighter, we were curious:  

Could we figure out who shot the film? 

What decade or even year is it from? 

Which freighter were they traveling on? 

Could we identify the places they went? Or even the people we see in the film? 

We assembled a team of experts and set out to do just that. Armed only with the content of the film and their knowledge of the Great Lakes, they set out to answer these questions and figured out even more.

But it’s still unknown who the people in the film are, or how they came to be traveling the Great Lakes on a freighter. 

Do you recognize the faces in this film?  

Tell us HERE.

Here are some other Great Lakes Now stories about the shipping industry:

WATCH: Drop, Soo and Lock It, Life Aboard a Freighter, Freighter Technology, Ships and Shipwrecks Watch Party

A cat gets tested for PFAS

Watch The Feature

PFAS in the House

SEGMENT 2 | Hamtramck, Michigan; South Bend, Indiana; Seattle, Washington; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

People around the Great Lakes region and the country have been exposed to PFAS through drinking water — but that’s not the only place you’ll come in contact with these “forever chemicals.”

After reporting about PFAS issues for a number of media outlets, journalist Tom Perkins started wondering about his own household’s exposure. In a project supported by Type Investigations in collaboration with Great Lakes Now, Perkins got his and his cat’s blood drawn and then tested household items to determine what his potential exposure sources are.

Read Tom Perkins’ story here: PFAS in the House: Are toxic “forever chemicals” a steady drip in this reporter’s home?

Here is some other Great Lakes Now work about PFAS: 


WATCH: The PFAS Problem and our Emmy-winning documentary Forever Chemicals.

(Image from PolkaDot Perch)


Watch The Feature

Invaders on the Menu

SEGMENT 3 | St. Clair River, Canadian-U.S. Border; Good Harbor Bay, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Zebra mussels and round goby have been in the Great Lakes for more than 30 years. As invasives, their impact is most often considered detrimental if not hazardous to native wildlife and systems.

But now some scientists are finding indigenous Great Lakes species can sometimes benefit from the “invaders.”

While studying zebra and quagga mussels in Lake Michigan, a team of researchers made a surprising discovery about round goby: they’re keeping the invasive mussels in check.

“Ironically, an invasive species – the round goby – may be helping to control another invasive species – the quagga mussel – by feeding on them,” said Harvey Bootsma, a professor at the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

In 2016, with support from the National Park Service and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Bootsma’s team began removing zebra and quagga mussels from an area on the bottom of Lake Michigan. 

The researchers wanted to know how long it would take the mussels to reestablish themselves. Four years later, they’re still waiting as it appears, Bootsma said, the round goby is consuming the mollusks.

Meanwhile, David Jude, research scientist emeritus at the University of Michigan, said the invasive round goby has become a favorite food item for a wide variety of native species, from bass and burbot to water snakes.

Initially, native predators like smallmouth bass ignored the goby, Jude said, but in recent years a wide variety of native species have begun to eat gobies.

“Once (gobies) became abundant,” Jude said, “walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass, smallmouth bass particularly, really zeroed in on them.”

Smallmouth bass prefer to hunt for food on lake and river bottoms. Crayfish are one of their favorite things to catch and eat. But the bass also seek out small bottom-dwelling fish like mottled sculpin and river darters. Round goby have no swim bladder and live on the bottom so they are a natural target for the bass. 

However, when startled, round goby don’t react like native fish, so it took a couple generations of smallmouth bass to work it out. 

Today, round goby are a daily special on the Great Lakes native species menu.

Which invasive are YOU most like? Take our Great Lake Now quiz HERE.

Here is some other Great Lakes Now work on invasive species:

WATCH: Carp Advance

WATCH: Mussel Blasting

WATCH: Asian Carp and the Great Lakes


In her “previous life” as a writer at Detroit’s Metro Times newspaper, GLN Program Director Sandra Svoboda once ate some Asian carp. Read about that HERE.

Videos from Episode 1022

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