The Soo locks, which link Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes, closed for the season on Tuesday. With that, a tough year for shippers, plagued as they were by low water levels across the Great Lakes, came to a welcome end. Too bad things were far from quiet on this last day. In the Duluth-Superior harbour, at the far end of Lake Superior, there was some very high drama that will no doubt result in a very steep repair bill.
The 1,000-foot laker Walter J. McCarthy was approaching her winter quarters when she hit an unknown submerged object, which pierced her hull near the stern. As the engine room began to flood, the captain sealed it off and the crew of twenty-four managed to get off unharmed. The McCarthy is now sitting upright next to the dock, where it is moored, in only twenty feet of water (so it essentially looks as though it's sitting a bit lower than usual).
Getting the big McCarthy back into operation is going to be one massive job. Before they can assess the damage, the boat's owners will have to pump her out and refloat her, which is not as straightforward as it sounds. If the water inside is heavily polluted, it cannot simply be pumped back into the harbour; it will have to be treated first. Thankfully, little oil has been seen leaking from the McCarthy. Time is also of the essence, as the water flooding the boat is on the verge of freezing with the onset of winter.
To read more about the plight of the Walter J. McCarthy, click here.
To read about the Soo Lock closure, click here.