How rough a winter has it been on the Great Lakes? Ask the crew of the freighter Arthur M. Anderson — whenever they make it back to port.
The 767-foot bulk carrier, due in port a week ago, was only just west of St. Ignace in northern Lake Michigan as of Monday afternoon, making its way to its winter layover port in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. The Anderson — famously the last ship to receive communication from the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald before it sank during an intense storm on Lake Superior in November 1975, killing all 29 crew members — was stuck in ice west of the Mackinac Bridge all day Sunday. A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker had to free it, the boatnerd.com reported.
That’s after the Anderson spent more than two weeks battling through ice in southern Lake Erie, for a trip from Conneaut, Ohio, to Gary, Ind., that typically takes two days. The freighter became frozen in place off Conneaut on Feb. 19, in deep, pressure-ridged lake ice stacked upon itself by winds. A U.S. Coast Guard cutter escorting the ship couldn’t break it out, and two additional cutters from the Canadian Coast Guard were sent to assist. The Anderson sat locked in ice for two days before being freed.
It’s the second straight tough winter for Great Lakes shipping, and the lakes altogether were 88.3% ice-covered as of Sunday — more than the 86% ice cover on the lakes on March 1, 2014, amid a winter with record snowfall and near-record frigid temperatures.
“Last winter, we had a little bit of a warm-up near the end of February, before we got another cold blast. This winter, we’ve had consistently cold temperatures,” said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.