Shipping News....

Have you ever looked out on the big lake and wondered about that ship going by? We sure have. Thank you to the observant readers who have called and emailed with their excitement and appreciation for our answer to that problem; the new Shipping News feature on the Boreal Community home page. For those who haven’t caught it yet, when a ship enters an area of Lake Superior that is close to Cook County, an alert will pop up at the top of the Boreal page that identifies the ship and gives a link to a map and more information about the vessel. Since we learned there are other curious souls out there just like us, we thought some might be interested in a little history behind the project.

Automatic Identification System, or AIS ( is a world-wide system for tracking the location of ships around the globe. Boreal discovered not so long ago that, while AIS is used on Lake Superior, when ships came by our front door, they didn’t appear on the map. What’s up with that? We investigated and found out that the system depends on land-based receivers that pick up the signals from the ships and are connected to the internet to send the data back to the maps.

Fast forward a couple of months and we wrote to Demitris at the University of the Agean in Greece, who developed a project called,  and volunteered to host one of their receivers here in Grand Marais. Low and behold, a month later a package arrived (from Cyprus no less!) with our new receiver. Not long after that, we headed up to the tower above Grand Marais, with donated antenna and new radio in hand. It took a little trial and error, but Boreal now hosts the equipment that serves over 700 square mile of the western end of Lake Superior!

We only have three more weeks to see the big boats go by, since the Soo Locks (webcam link - are scheduled to close for the season on January 15th. So enjoy our visitors while you can, and we will be sure to let you know when they start sailing again in the spring.

We welcome your comments and ideas below