Growing up in Duluth, we could hear the boats tooting from our house. And the bridge’s unique signal in response. The incoming ships would sound their horns just about even with our house. On a nice summer evening, it spawned instant activity – “let’s go see it go through the bridge!” We’d jump in the car, race the ship down to Canal Park and rush to the pier to watch the huge vessel slide under the bridge.
I had a poster on the dresser next to my bed, with all the smoke stacks of the Great Lakes ore boats. And my dad, who worked for a mining company, knew many of the ships by sight. Living in Duluth, shipping season is part of every day life.
Having returned to live in Duluth once again, I still thrill at the sight of the boats on Lake Superior. I was there on the shore to see the first ship leave port this spring, among the piles of ice that lined the water’s edge.
While I still love to hear the ships tooting, I no longer need to rely on them for my ship arrival and departure information. With the leap in years between my youth and my return, there has also been a leap in technology. While there is a wealth of information available on the web, I wanted access to the data any time, anywhere. So I turned to my trusty iPhone and yes, there’s an app for that.
I’m a visual person, so I tested out several apps that display ships on a map. I chose the MarineTraffic app for its intuitive visual display and ease of use. It has different icons for docked and moving ships, displays the direction of travel, and tapping an icon displays a picture of the ship and detailed information about the vessel, its current voyage and last position. It’s a great way to see what’s coming and going, or to identify a ship out on the lake.
But that still doesn’t tell me when to find the ship under the bridge. For that I turned to a shipping schedule. The best source I found for that is the Duluth Shipping News. They have a web page that lists Arrivals and Departures for Duluth, Superior and Two Harbors. In addition to estimated ship movement times, it includes what cargo it is loading or discharging, which I find interesting. To make this easy to access, I created an icon on my iPhone that goes directly to that web page. (Here are step-by-step directions to do that.)
My techie side is happy with my new apps. And I’m sure they will be very useful. But if I hear a boat tooting on a nice evening, I may still race it down to the bridge.