Thursday, December 7, 2023

Skating in Duluth Harbor

Once in a while I will enjoy the sight of a huge ship entering the Duluth, Minnesota harbor from Lake Superior, via the Harbor Canal.  There are cameras on 24/7.  It is sort of relaxing to watch the long ships entering or leaving the harbor.  Here is the link for the canal camera.  Duluth Canal Cam - YouTube

Some folks enjoy the lonesome sound of distant train whistles.  I like the sound of the ship horns blowing a salute to the Lift Bridge at the entrance to the harbor.  The Lift Bridge raises the entire roadway high enough for the ships to pass underneath.  The bridge is equipped with a horn that blows an answering salute.

Watching the ship enter the harbor today served to remind me of a story involving my Grandfather, ice skates and the Duluth Harbor.

My Grandfather was born in Chenango County of New York in 1883.  His family moved to Minnesota before the turn of the century.  They stayed for a time with relatives in Duluth before moving to a farm.

Minnesota winters can be cold.  Even a lake as large as Lake Superior can freeze, at least along the shoreline.  

When I was reading some letters written between my Grandfather and his siblings, I found one where he talks about ice skating on the Duluth Harbor as a child.  What caught my attention was his description of skating around the sailing ships that were frozen in the ice along the docks.

What a fascinating time that must have been.  Every few years, Duluth hosts a gathering of 'tall ships' that serve to give us a taste of what life was like back then.

 According to the accounts of life back then, written by some of my ancestors, life wasn't easy.  But neither was it terribly complicated.  

Men were men.  Women were women.   They knew the difference.


  1. As a "man of the sea," I share your liking of the ships' horns and whistles blowing, Vicki. That being said, I'd need a pretty good set of ears to hear them from my perch in California's low desert.

    There were a few times during my childhood on Long Island when the bays froze over. Some guy, on a dare, even drove his Corvette from the waterfront in my town to Jones Beach; several miles across salt ice... He actually made it. A few hundred years from now, archeologists will discover the hulks of pickup trucks buried in the mud of the bay's marshes, far from shore, and wonder how they got there. When the bays froze, the clammers would still need to clam. They'd drive their trucks out to the marshes, chainsaw holes in the ice, and drag their rakes. Some of the trucks fell through the ice. Some of the CLAMMERS fell through the ice. I'm sure that horsedrawn wagons The need to survive surpassed the risks of driving on a frozen bay.

    As you said, life was not easy. Then again, that was a time when ships were of wood and MEN were of steel...

    1. How does one post a reply by pressing the spacebar?... The incomplete sentence was supposed to say that "I'm sure that horse drawn wagons preceded the pickup trucks...

      God bless you and yours, Vicki.

    2. Pete...I will admit to liking the sounds of train whistles as well as the sounds of ships horns. The first seems to have a lonely sound, but the latter proudly proclains, "Here I am!" I'm not sure when the next Duluth 'Tall Ship Festival' will be held, for they don't do it every year, but I surely do want to watch the ships enter the harbor through the canal when it happens.

      Reading the letters written by my ancestors gives me insight into what their lives were like and what was important to them. Most of that bears absolutely no resemblance to what so many think is important now. I can picture my ancestors either laughing heartily or shaking their heads in wonderment about what is happening in our world today. Sad, really.

      God truly bless you and yours, my friend.

    3. The sign of a great blog are great comments. I’m a flat lander from Alberta and this stuff is fascinating. Coastal people are interesting creatures as well.

    4. Filthie...Having grown up in the flatlands of western Minnesota, surrounded by corn and soy bean fields, I completely understand the fascination with other areas of the country.

      Duluth is a particular gem, with the lake and further up the shore, a lighthouse and a beautiful waterfall. People travel for miles to see the fall foliage along the shore.

      But it is the written accounts via letters and memories of stories told me by my father about his life on a northern Minnesota farm, that I find most fascinating. Perhaps I will share some of the stories here. After all, when this country finally collapses, we may just need to have knowledge of the old ways in order to survive.

  2. And PuppyGirl woke up and lifted up her head when she heard the seagulls. Cheers, Sj now in California

    1. SJ...Probably thought there was something else besides cats that she needed to protect you from. :)