In the second episode of the Great Lakes Now monthly show, come aboard a boat that delivers mail to ships on the Great Lakes. Learn about life on a Great Lakes freighter, and dive into some incredible shipwrecks that you don’t necessarily need a scuba tank to see in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.
WHERE WE TAKE YOU THIS MONTH
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Watch Live on DPTV
Tuesday, December 29 at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Bad Axe, Michigan
Bay County, Michigan
Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
East Lansing, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Green Bay, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Menomonie-Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
Park Falls, Wisconsin
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
This Month on Great Lakes Now
Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 2.
You’ve Got Mail
SEGMENT 1 | ABOARD THE J.W. WESTCOTT, DETROIT RIVER
Come aboard the tugboat that delivers to Great Lakes freighters
This segment won First Place in Feature Reporting in the Society of Professional Journalists – metro Detroit chapter 2020 contest, received an Award of Merit – Documentary Short, Award of Recognition – Concept, and Award of Recognition – Creativity/Originality from the Impact Doc Awards, and was recognized in the video presentation category by the Michigan Press Association.
Since 1874, this family-owned company has made deliveries to commercial ships on the Detroit River. Great Lakes Now Host Ward Detwiler goes aboard the J.W. Westcott II while mail and crew get to today’s passing freighters.
Brian Heikkuri, a deckhand with the Westcott company, shares stories about his work.
“They’ll order from the pizza joint right down the street,” Heikkuri says. “We take it, put it into their delivery box and send it right up the side of the ship on a rope.
Life Aboard a Freighter
SEGMENT 2 | WPBS-DT | EASTERN LAKE ONTARIO, NEW YORK
Meet the captain and crew and learn what life is like on a Great Lakes ship
Board a vessel in the Welland Canal, the series of locks that allow ships to bypass Niagara Falls, and travel with the captain and crew into the stunning Thousand Islands region east of Lake Ontario.
In this segment from partner station WPBS-TV in New York, Great Lakes Now introduces the men who work on board.
“If you do a job that you love, you don’t feel like you’re working,” says Wilson Walters, captain of the CSL Welland.
Got a question for a Great Lakes freighter captain? Ask it HERE. >>
Watch the full WPBS documentary HERE. >>
WPBS produced this segment in part with support from a Great Lakes Now Local Station Production Grant.
Since this original airing, WPBS and Great Lakes Now have partnered on several stories and events:
WATCH: Freighter Technology segment
Wrecks Within Reach
SEGMENT 3 | ALPENA, MICHIGAN
The Great Lakes only national marine sanctuary brings underwater history up close
This segment received an Award of Recognition – Documentary Short and Award of Recognition – Nature/Environment/Wildlife from the Impact Doc Awards.
Whether you’re in a glass-bottomed boat, looking down from a kayak, or diving underwater, the shipwrecks at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary give you a haunting look at the past.
Start your visit at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, the sanctuary’s museum in Alpena, Michigan, and continue on the waters of Lake Huron to see the wrecks.
But it’s not just tourists who benefit from the work of the archaeologists and historians. Sanctuary staff help local students learn about the Great Lakes in a “Science and the Sanctuary” class that’s required at Alpena High School.
“It’s kind of changed a career course for me,” says freshman Jillian Pilarski. “I really enjoy science and never had an opportunity to learn about what I want to learn about. … This right now is really what I’m into.”
- See similar sanctuaries on the Great Lakes or learn more about other potential national marine sanctuaries on the Great Lakes.
Here is additional Great Lakes Now work about shipwrecks since this segment first aired:
- Sanctuaries in Sight: The solo national marine sanctuary in the Great Lakes could be joined by three more
- The Age of Nature: Humanity’s relationship with nature in the Great Lakes region and beyond
- Shipwreck Life: How fish and other aquatic species utilize Great Lakes shipwrecks
- What Grows: “Shipwrecks and Ecosystems” watch party for Great Lakes Now and “The Age of Nature”
- What Grows: Shipwrecks become ecosystems, even at nuclear testing sites
Videos from the EpisodeSubscribe on YouTube
Plovers nest on a Chicago beach, suckers spawn in Wisconsin, and storms rage in Duluth.
One lakeside town struggles with PFAS pollution from a local Air Force base, while cities around the region race to remove and replace thousands of lead water pipes. And after a year-long delay, Great Lakes…
Carrying oil through the waters of the Straits of Mackinac, the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is arguably the biggest international, political and environmental issue in the Great Lakes region. Now, with a state-ordered shutdown, rigorous…
Invasive mussels are hastening the deterioration of historic Great Lakes shipwrecks, like the submerged Prins Willem V off Milwaukee. Zebra and quagga mussels are also a big problem for water treatment and power plants. But…
Who are the people in this old freighter movie? And where could PFAS be in your home?
The White House and the U.S. Senate change hands. What will it mean for the Great Lakes?
Come aboard a boat that delivers mail to ships on the Great Lakes. Learn about life on a Great Lakes freighter, and dive into some incredible shipwrecks that you don’t necessarily need a scuba tank to see in the Great Lakes’ only national marine sanctuary.
Lake levels rise, COVID’s in wastewater and invasive species weave new food webs.
Nature is both fragile and fearsome. In the Chicago River, fish populations have suffered since the river became a steel-lined channel, but can floating garden islands restore a more natural habitat? Our region offers spectacular night sky views, but will new satellites mar their beauty? And how are Great Lakes parks coping with COVID-19 and record-setting lake levels?
The health of the Great Lakes is inextricably linked to the health of the rivers that feed them. In northern Minnesota, one river faces environmental threats from a proposed mine. In Michigan, a second river is unleashed when aging hydroelectric dams are removed. In Indiana, a third river is protected from invasive Asian carp, which have infested rivers further south.
Learn more about a little-known Chicago shipwreck that took more lives than the Titanic. Check in on the Kalamazoo River’s wildlife 10 years after the Line 6B pipeline spilled over a million gallons of oil there, and find out if COVID-19 means no basketball tournament in 2020 for four Great Lakes island schools.
Large-scale dairy and animal farms fuel the annual toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie — are regulation loopholes contributing? Record-high water levels are costing lakefront towns millions of dollars, and the Midland dam breach came…
As stay-at-home orders end around the Great Lakes, does Wisconsin’s experience opening businesses predict anything for other tourism-dependent communities? How are researchers, reef restorers and hydroponic farms reacting to the pandemic? Plus, with an increase…
Produced fully during the COVID-19 pandemic, this episode checks in with people, businesses and institutions from previous episodes to see how work has changed during the public health emergency. But while social distancing keeps people inside, it lets the residents of some Great Lakes aquariums get out.
Rebuilding Chicago’s iconic lakefront, managing Buffalo’s rainwater and sewage, and tracking the annual algal blooms in Lake Erie are all part of the Great Lakes region’s effort to manage the impacts of climate change. This month, Great Lakes Now takes you to meet the citizens, city leaders and scientists who are working on these issues.
The response to Chicago’s lead pipe replacement project is a story playing out in neighborhoods across the country. Government public interest initiatives, even with the best of intentions and resources, are being curtailed by mistrust.
Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Fest celebrates a multi-year lake sturgeon restoration program and is just one of a long list Great Lakes Now has compiled on sturgeon-related activities to explore this summer.
The court ruled that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hadn’t sufficiently justified granting the permit after opponents raised allegations that PolyMet was planning a much larger mine.
An invasive weed that can choke out native plants and fish habitat has been found in one of Minnesota’s largest and most popular walleye lakes.
Two open houses are set for Thursday and Friday at the national park in northwestern Indiana.
NOAA announced a public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Lake Ontario marine sanctuary, including feedback on what areas the sanctuary should include.
PFAS News Roundup: EPA approved PFAS use for fracking, $20M for Ontario airport cleanup, PFAS Action Act set for House vote
Catch the latest updates on what’s happening with PFAS in Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.
For eight hours each day, Kathy Johnson knelt in waist-deep water sorting a steady flow of material moving along a two-foot-wide conveyor belt. She was looking for treasure but not of the golden variety – her team was after an endangered freshwater mussel.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.
Digital Designer: Shelby Jouppi
Digital Video and Photography: Rob Green, Zosette Guir, Matt Ilas, Zachary Irving, Sandra Svoboda, Jim Toscano, Barry Walton, Jordan Wingrove and Courtesy of WPBS-TV, NOAA/Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Captain Neil Schultheiss, the J.W. Westcott Co., Andy Morrison, Canada Steamship Lines, Tom Weldon, Thousand Islands International Council.
Website Writing: Natasha Blakely, Rob Green, Sandra Svoboda