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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When to Watch?
Check your local station for when Great Lakes Now is on in your area.
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.
More on the Westcott from Great Lakes Now:
- Letters, Packages, Pizzas: The duties of the mail boat have changed with the evolution of delivery
- Boat Life: The ups and downs of life as a mail boat captain
- A Little Boat in a Big River: The J.W. Westcott ll
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.
Read more about life aboard a freighter >
Since this original airing, WPBS and Great Lakes Now have partnered on several stories and events:
WATCH: Freighter Technology segment
WATCH: Water Damage Episode Facebook Watch Party
REVIEW: Dateline Brockville, Ontario: Free screening of “Ships and Shipwrecks”
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
Maple Syrup and Storing Energy – Episode 2304
Climate change impacts maple syrup and a Toronto company’s push toward renewable power.
Fading Stars and River Bugs – Episode 2303
Citizen scientists chart the night sky, measure the health of a river and The Catch.
Ice Climbing and Offshore Wind – Episode 2302
Ice climbing in northern Michigan and a controversial wind energy project on Lake Erie.
Smart Sewers and Sunken Aircraft – Episode 2301
A high-tech solution for sewage and recovering WWII aircraft from Lake Michigan.
Shrinking Winter – Episode 2202 Rebroadcast
The science of shrinking ice coverage, Great Lakes ice fishing and skating on wild ice.
Great Lakes Wildlife – Episode 2211
Seeking a small, venomous catfish, highlighting a Great Lakes docuseries and “The Catch.”
Surf and Turf – Episode 2210
Exploring a debate over Great Lakes land use, eFoiling on Lake Huron, and The Catch.
Finders, Keepers – Episode 2209
Scanning the bottom of the Great Lakes, a giant library of preserved fish, and The Catch.
Poisonous Ponds: Tackling Toxic Coal Ash – Episode 2208
How coal ash is threatening Lake Michigan, ideas for beneficial coal ash reuse and The Catch.
Salamanders, Shipping and Shorelines – Episode 2207
Saving salamanders, how Great Lakes ports fit into global shipping and The Catch.
Homes, Invaders – Episode 2206
Controlling invasive sea lamprey, hazards in our homes, and a Great Lakes news update.
Water’s True Cost – Episode 2205
The Great Lakes News Collaborative looks at the cost of water in the region and beyond.
Mushrooms and Mobsters – Episode 2204
A giant fungus in a tiny Great Lakes town, gangsters vacation “Up North,” and “The Catch.”
Surf and Slide – Episode 2203
Sailing on ice, Lake Ontario winter surfing and three Lake Michigan news stories.
Shrinking Winter – Episode 2202
The science of shrinking ice coverage, Great Lakes ice fishing and skating on wild ice.
Wildfire smoke can harm human health, even when the fire is hundreds of miles away – a toxicologist explains why
Chances are, if you’re a healthy individual, going for a bike ride or a hike in light haze won’t be a big deal, and your body will be able to recover.
Inside the Michigan lab where scientists raise killer bugs to save trees
The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that feeds on ash wood, has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees across North America. The key to saving what’s left may be growing behind paned glass in a quiet Brighton business park.
PFAS News Roundup: 3M being investigated for contamination, New safety bills introduced in Michigan
Catch the latest updates on what’s happening with PFAS in this biweekly headline roundup.
Great Lakes Moment: New trail connects people with secluded Detroit River wetlands
The new Grosse Ile Township greenway trail is designed to improve public access to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’s Gibraltar Bay Unit.
The Endangered Species Act turns 50: Congress is working to weaken it
The U.S. Senate has approved three changes to remove protections from threatened and endangered wildlife.
Illinois, feds grapple with agreement that would advance billion dollar plan to stop invasive carp
Illinois objects to terms of “complex” partnership agreement required by the Army Corps of Engineers, while Michigan policy expert questions the need for the project.
Michigan lawmakers pledge ‘full support’ for reopening Palisades nuclear plant
The push to repower the shuttered Palisades nuclear power plant has momentum in Lansing, with a bipartisan caucus pledging support for the plant’s revival.
Energy News Roundup: Illinois house passes ethics bill, EPA rule in Indiana
Catch the latest in Great Lakes energy news in Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.
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