Phenologist Sparky Stensaas has been keeping journals and recording events in the natural world since he moved here in 1981. Flipping back through the pages, he saw entries for the first laker leaving Duluth under the lift bridge: 1997, March 20 ... 1999, March 17 ... 2001, March 17 ... 2002, March 21..."
But even though the Duluth Seaway Port Authority said in a news release this week* that they'll start ice-breaking next Wednesday, the first laker probably won't be leaving any time soon.
*"The United States Coast Guard announced yesterday that it plans to navigate CGC Alder and heavy ice-breaker CGC Mackinaw into Lake Superior on approximately March 20, 2019, to commence ice-breaking efforts for the upcoming shipping season. The Alder and Mackinaw will be followed by Canadian CGS Samuel Risley, which homeports at Perry Sound, Ontario. The trio will operate first in Whitefish Bay, then move west across Lake Superior. Additional support, if needed, may also come from the Canadian CGS Pierre Radisson, which is slated to lock through the Soo Locks and into Lake Superior on March 25, depending on the severity of ice conditions in eastern Lake Erie.
"According to Mark Gill, director of vessel traffic services for the U.S. Coast Guard, the plan is for Alder and Mackinaw to make their way to the Port of Duluth-Superior and vicinity to assist in moving ships out of winter layup. Risley will assist in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Alder is scheduled to remain in the Duluth-Superior area after the initial Lake Superior ice-breaking prep work is completed."