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      Latest Start to the Shipping Season: May 21, 1873

      This was the scene in Marquette Harbor in June 1873. Legend has it that picnic-goers on the Fourth of July cooled their drinks with lingering ice from the harbor.

      The arrival of Peter White and Robert Gravereat to the shore of what was to become the City of Marquette was commemorated four years ago at Founderâ??s Landing. During the journey along the shore of Lake Superior, Peter White recalled the hardships they encountered. â??It took eight days of â??rowing, towing, poling and sailing,â?? he recalled. White made no mention of left-over ice on Lake Superior. However, a little over two decades later, in 1873, the first boat finally arrived at the dock on May 21, and ice was still impeding navigation well into June (Image above). In 1885, the first boat didnâ??t sail into port until May 20.

      Back in the old days, the first arrival was a cause for celebration. â??The coming of the first boat was something that was the sole topic of conversation for days,â?? remembered early settler and weather observer Judge L.P. Crary. â??No man ever had more than one eye on his work after the ice began to go out, as the other eye was turned lakeward in the hopes of seeing a sail.â?? Finally, as the first boat made port, bells rang, whistles blew and everyone made as much noise as possible.

      â??When the first boat arrived,â?? explained Crary, â??it was considered excusable to get â??loadedâ?? and nearly everyone availed themselves of the privilege.â?? He went on to recall that the small boats of the bygone years carried less weight, so there were more of them. â??I have seen as many as sixty or seventy little craft in Marquette Harbor at one time. That brought lots of sailors and made things lively on occasions.â??

      Lake Superior ports have become less important to the livelihood of Upper Michigan residents in our modern world. Yet, our harbors are still a focal point for shipments of iron ore and coal. They have also become a destination and departure point for pleasure craft. However this year, lingering ice from our historic winter is delaying boating, including the Pictured Rocks Cruises out of Munising (where I will broadcast the weather live this evening).