Behold the Thousand-Foot Ships of the Great Lakes
Those who have never been to the Great Lakes are missing a helluva sight. In fact, after standing on those shores and looking out at the seemingly endless waters, the word “lake” seems sadly insufficient. “Mini-oceans” may be a better term for these wonders of nature that contain 21% of the planet’s aboveground fresh water. Almost as awe-inspiring as the lakes themselves are the huge freighters that travel them. Known as ‘lakers,” they carry materials like grain, coal, iron ore, and salt to multiple destinations. In 2006 alone they transported more than 173 million tons of material. They fall under a variety of categories, including the following: RELATED: Van, Boat, RV Combo Takes to the Water [VIDEO] 1. Bulkers: Carry vast amounts of bulk goods.
2. Self-unloaders: Are capable of unloading themselves without the need for developed docks.
3. Longboats: So named for their long, slender design.
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There are 140 of these giant ships plying the waters of the lakes. Most are big enough to make Noah’s ark look like a life-raft. But the really big daddies are the 1,000-footers. Ranging in length from 1,000 to 1013.5 feet, they measure 105 feet wide and have hull depths of 56 feet.
There are twelve 1,000 footers, each built between 1976 and 1981. The king of all of them, power-wise, is the Edwin H. Gott, which is driven by two obscenely large diesel generators that together generate just under 20,000 horsepower. The craft is capable of a top speed of 16.7 mph. This may not sound like much until you consider that it has a total dry weight of 76,011 tons and can haul more than 7 million pounds of material. Its most common cargo is taconite, a type of iron ore.
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In terms of sheer size, the Paul R. Tregurtha leads the pack with a 1013’ stretch from end to end. It’s capable of hauling 68,000 tons of cargo. The Cort has an interesting life story. About 200 feet of its total length was built along Mississippi’s faraway shores, then shipped up north, where workers in Erie, PA added an additional 800’ to make it the mammoth ship it is today.
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All of the 1,000 footers are American vessels. The Canadians pilot several large boats of their own across the lakes but their length cannot exceed 730 feet. These boats must traverse the Welland Canal, which steers a path around Niagara Falls- hence the size restrictions. If you’re ever around Duluth, Minnesota or any of the other great port towns along the US-Canada border, or ever boating around the lakes for that matter, take some time to observe these vessels. They are true wonders to behold.
Image Sources: Wikipedia.com, Boatnerd.com