History | 5 August 201510 Things You Didn’t Know About the Great Lakes Share article facebook twitter google pinterest The Great Lakes, otherwise known as the Inland Seas, are rich with history. Actually, much of the most interesting things you’ll learn about these waters have everything to do with enormous vessels hauling iron ore to south-shore workshops. We read about the history of the pristine North Country, its supremely important behemoth lakes, and the mineral-rich earth around them in the book Steel: From Mine to Mill, by Brooke Stoddard. Below are 10 facts we learned. The Great Lakes compose a vast waterway for iron from the Lake Superior region to steel mills farther south. 1. The Great Lakes region was first “discovered” by the French, not the English. Étienne Brûlé, discovered Lake Superior two years before the Pilgrims sailed, and he walked these Indian hunting grounds for twenty years. 2. If Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world, were a state, it would rank thirty-eighth in size, slightly smaller than Indiana and slightly larger than South Carolina. 3. Together, the Great Lakes form the largest inland sea in the world. They are visible from the moon. 4. They contain 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water, enough to cover the contiguous United States fifteen feet deep. Mining hamlets along the Iron Range were frontier towns. 5. The Great Lakes operate in secrecy: The largest port of the Great Lakes rated in tonnage, and consistently one of the largest in the United States, is Duluth, Minnesota/Superior, Wisconsin. For many years of this century, more tonnage, mainly iron ore, passed through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie in seven months than through the Panama and Suez Canals combined in twelve months. 6. Great Lakes freighters hauled four times more goods during World War II than did the whole US Merchant Marine on salt water. 7. A thousand freighters a year haul into Duluth/Superior, which has forty-nine miles of harbor front. 8. Not far from the Great Lakes, in Hibbing, Minnesota, is the world’s largest iron mine. It’s 4 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 500 feet deep. From the mine, trains carried tons of taconite to Lake Superior to ship. Two cities on the lake–Duluth, MN and Superior, WI–share a natural port and are the largest iron-ore handling facilities in the world. A young iron miner stands next to Minnesota’s Hull-Rust open-pit mine in 1941. A railroad engine puffs along the mine floor. 9. Lake Superior creates visual tricks. Isle Royale has been seen floating upside down in the sky; at other times, sand dunes float by and two moons can stalk a boat through the night sky. Ask anyone who works on an iron-ore boat. 10. Lake-effect storms on the Great Lakes can be epic. Some are legendary. The Big Blow of November 1913 sent thirteen ships and 235 sailors to the bottom. The Armistice Day Storm of 1940 doomed two freighters and seventy sailors. Read more on the fascinating history of the Great Lakes in the North Country, the Iron Range, and more in Brooke Stoddard’s new book Steel: From Mine to Mill. Steel: From Mine to Mill, the Metal that Made America Author: Brooke Stoddard Steel provides the backbone for modern civilization – read all about its history, journey, and place in the world. What is steel? How does it work? Why has it been so important? Who are the people who make it? How do they make it? Steel: From Mine to Mill, the Metal that Made America answers these questions. Improperly understood until about 150 years ago and available until then only in small quantities, the metal itself is a delicate dance of iron crystals interspersed with carbon and – depending on intended service – other elements such as nickel, chromium, and molybdenum. Once deciphered, steel began to flow from hearths in increasing amounts for the building of railroads, steel ships, skyscrapers, and bridges, in the process raising to world economic dominance Great Britain, Germany, the United States, Japan, and the Soviet Union. The world’s current largest producer is China. While researching this book, author Brooke C. Stoddard descended into Mesabi Iron Range open-pit iron mines, rode with 58,000 tons of iron ore on a 1,000-foot ore boat from Duluth to Cleveland, climbed to the top of the hemisphere’s largest blast furnace, interviewed men as they toiled next to their furnaces of liquid steel, and walked the immense rolling mills where steel is pressed into finished products. Along the way, he wrote a narrative of iron and steel from pre-history through the Industrial Revolution and into the present age. Steel is the sinew of modern civilization. Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.