Mackinaw City in Cheboygan County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Breaking the ice
Extending the shipping season to transport goods
Great Lakes shipping is a key component to the regional economy. The shipping industry is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to transport large quantities of raw materials, such as iron ore, coal and heating oil. Extending the shipping season into the winter reduces the need to stockpile materials, reducing inventory costs. This means lower prices for consumers for items such as electricity, heating oil and steel.
"Nature's great barriers which heretofore have blocked the way across these Straits must now succumb to human progress."
Captain Lewis R. Boynton, in a speech on April 24, 1888 celebrating the ice breaker Saint Ignace
The first icebreakers
During the late 19th century, America developed a voracious appetite for building and construction. Raw materials were used as fast as they could be mined and carried. Railroads were constructed across the state to haul materials, many converging in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.
Year-round navigation was impossible as treacherous fall storms and winter ice locked ships in port. Not enough materials could be stockpiled
That changed in 1888 with the construction of the Saint Ignace. She was equipped with a spoon bow and a forward propeller ten feet in diameter. The vessel arrived to much fanfare, as residents felt the end to wintertime isolation was finally at hand.
As time went on, more icebreakers were introduced to the Upper Great Lakes. The Sainte Marie was ordered and put into service in 1893. In 1913 the first steel-hulled boat, Chief Wawatam, began icebreaking duty in the Straits while transporting railroad cars. The engines from the original Sainte Marie were removed to be installed in a new ferry of the same name. The Sainte Maire (II) was smaller than the Chief, but proved to be a superb icebreaker.
The United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Mackinaw was built as part of the war effort during World War II to meet the heavy demands placed on industry for an increase in production of war materials. The "Arsenal of Democracy" needed to keep its factories running year-round, especially the steel-making plants along the Great Lakes. Congress authorized construction of Mackinaw on December 17, 1941, ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A new era
The USCGC Mackinaw was decommissioned in 2006 after sixty-two years of service. Her age
The Great Lakes shipping season is 42 weeks long, delivering over 150 million tons of materials.
Of the 42-week shipping season, twelve weeks require icebreaking services.
The Great Lakes icebreaking services have an estimated average annual outcome of $50 million to industry alone!
The USCGC Mackinaw is land-locked; she's too big to leave the Great Lakes!
Erected by Straits State Harbor, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Division.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is April 24, 1888.
Location. 45° 46.674′ N, 84° 43.366′ W. Marker is in Mackinaw City, Michigan, in Cheboygan County. Marker can be reached from South Huron Avenue north of Wendell Street. Marker is at the far end of Straits State Harbor, near the closer (west) shelter. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 409 South Huron Avenue, Mackinaw City MI 49701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of North Central Trail (here, next to this marker); The Mighty Mac (within shouting distance of this marker); Crossing the Straits (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Before the bridge (about 300 feet away); Windy City? (about 400 feet away); The Meneely Bell (about 700 feet away); Michigan State Ferry System / Michigan State Car Ferries (about 800 feet away); Edgar Conkling 1812-1881 (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mackinaw City.
Also see . . .
1. USCGC Mackinaw WAGB-83. Website of the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum. (Submitted on August 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.)
2. USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83). Wikipedia article about the original USCGC Mackinaw. (Submitted on August 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.)
3. USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30). Wikipedia article about the new USCGC Mackinaw. (Submitted on August 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 29, 2019. It was originally submitted on August 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 159 times since then and 36 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on August 29, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.