Belle Island, Isle Royale National Park – August 3, 2012
I sat on the steps of the Passage Island lighthouse and watched the Algoma Spirit pass through the channel. I saw it coming for miles, growing giant on the horizon until it moved in front of Isle Royale like a steel monster. Its black hull covered half the island. Its stern rose like a fortress. Its wake was bigger than any wave I’d seen that day.
I stared at it, the scale so beyond my seventeen feet that it didn’t seem real, but there it was in front of me, churning up waves and blotting out miles of shoreline.
I know Lake Superior is big. I know because I read it in a book and looked at it on maps, but then I saw the Algoma Spirit shrink against the open water and I knew because I saw it with my own eyes. Lake Superior turned her into a little toy on the horizon.
The Edmund Fitzgerald was big too until the lake broke it in half. The George M. Cox carried 125 passengers until the lake suspended a hundred feet of her keel into the sky on the reef near Rock of Ages. The passengers spent the night rotating in and out of the lighthouse’s spiral staircase while their ship rocked apart in the waves.
I watched the Algoma Spirit disappear on the horizon.
“It knows,” I thought. “Just like the Edmund Fitzgerald knows, the George M. Cox knows, every boat above and below knows, there’s only one giant here.”