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In Praise of the Majestic “Great Lakes”

August 10th, 2013 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, how often do we fail to see the grandeur in our lives because we mistake it for the commonplace?

I’ve lived in the Great Lakes Basin my entire life. I was born a half hour drive away from Lake Erie and have lived a good part of my life forty minutes from the shores of Lake Ontario. In some ways, the Great Lakes are a part of my identity. And yet, I have to admit that I’ve come to take them for granted.

For those of you not familiar with the Great Lakes, they are a chain of five connected lakes – Erie, Ontario, Michigan, Huron and Superior – which form a single interconnected body of fresh water which connects to the St Lawrence River and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean.

A few examples of what makes The Great Lakes so great:

They are the largest system of fresh, surface water on Earth containing approximately 21% of the world’s supply of fresh water – enough water to cover the 48 contiguous U.S. states to a uniform depth of 9.5 feet.

Their total surface of 94,250 square miles is roughly equal to the size of the United Kingdom.

It takes a drop of water nearly 400 years to travel from the headwaters of Lake Superior to the edge of Lake Ontario.

More than 150 species of fish make their home in the Great Lakes.

No one knows for sure the total length of the Great Lakes coastline. But it is estimated at 10,500 miles – roughly the distance of almost half the Earth’s equator.

Dispersed throughout the Great Lakes are approximately 35,000 islands – two of which are large enough to contain multiple lakes themselves. In fact, Manitoulin Island’s Lake Manitou is the world’s largest lake located on a freshwater island.

The Great Lakes have been sailed upon since the 17th century. Thousands of ships sit at the bottom of them. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum approximates 6,000 ships and 30,000 lives lost while other sources estimate the number of wrecks at closer to 25,000.

In the period between 1816, when the Invincible was lost, to the sinking of the Fitzgerald (immortalized in the classic Gordon Lightfoot
song) in 1975, the Whitefish Point area alone has claimed at least 240 ships.

In truth, it is one of the great privileges of my life to have spent 50 plus years in the vicinity of this majestic, natural wonder. I could call up any number of metaphors on their behalf – the splendour of nature, the unmeasured abundance of our planet Earth, the interconnectedness of all living things. The list goes on.

Today it seems most important to recalibrate my sense of the commonplace and rediscover the grandeur that exists in my own backyard. The Great Lakes are a part of who I am and for that I am truly grateful.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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