1936 Fire

Questions regarding the history of the island and historical places on the island.

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johnhens
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1936 Fire

Post by johnhens »

This is from the IRNP Facebook page.

Island Interrupted: Double Whammy

When you’re knocked down, and then as you’re trying to get back up get knocked down by something even bigger, is it ever possible to get back to where you started?

The 1930s were trying times for the balsam fir population on Isle Royale. That tree is already munched on by moose in the winter, so stunted growth is common even in a regular year. But when the spruce budworm comes through, it leaves a wake of defoliation in its path. The larvae emerge just prior to budbreak in the spring and take their nutrition from the needles in May and June, leading to the tree’s death during serious infestations. (Contrary to the name, the spruce budworm does prefer Isle Royale’s balsam firs over its white spruce.)

If it weren’t bad enough that the balsam fir were already losing the battle in 1936, their demise put the island in a much graver position. A forest ravaged by spruce budworms is more susceptible to fire. The largest fire in the recorded history of the island burned for months, charred 27,000 acres (roughly 20%) of the island’s forests, and took 1,800 firefighters to control. Such destruction put a halt (at least for that point in time) to any further advances by the spruce budworm.

Many hiking the Greenstone Ridge today would not notice the scars from 1936. The wilderness setting woos the experiencer with a somewhat false aura of being untouched or unspoiled. It would have been hard, looking at the defoliated trees in 1935, to believe that normal would ever return. It would have been even more difficult in 1937 to not pine for the old days before everything changed. But normal did eventually return. The Greenstone Ridge is beautiful once more, complete with balsam firs.

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Tom
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Re: 1936 Fire

Post by Tom »

A good ten plus years ago, "Bucket Bob" turned me on to the Isle Royale version of geocaching, going out and finding the various survey and triangulation markers used to map the island in the late 30s. When you find some of these, like the "Falls" point west of the Siskiwit camp, you realize the island looked much different/no trees when the survey crew was there. While this particular one is somewhat on a ridge, you can't see more than twenty or thirty feet in any one direction these days.
FallsTriangulationPoint.jpg

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dcclark
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Re: 1936 Fire

Post by dcclark »

Tom, you've just given me a new goal for my next few trips (and likely a way to get my surveyors-in-law onto the island too).

Last year, I had a sort-of goal of bushwhacking to Mt. Saginaw (south of Moskey). There is a high point marked there, but likely no permanent survey point. I would have loved to see what's there but was unable to cross some of the swamps.

Bobcat1
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Re: 1936 Fire

Post by Bobcat1 »

Re those benchmarks, if you dig around on the internet, there are several great trip reports of people searching for and finding those markers on isle Royale. I know of one on Saginaw Hill, one near Malone Bay CG, one on Caribou Island, one up by the Mt Ojibway tower, and a missing one that is ripe tobefound somewhere on Mt Franklin near the junction of the Lane Cove trail.

The reports are linked through from the USGS pages somehow, not the Isle Royale forums.
19 RH-ML-TI-RH by kayak
16 RH-DF-MB-TI-RH-3M-RH by kayak
09 RH-DF-MC-TH-HL-SD-WC
00 WC-IM-WC
96 WC-FL-SB-SD-HL-CE-3M-RH
94 RH-DF-MB-3M-RH
92 RH-DF-LR-CW-HL-SD-IM-WC

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Tom
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Re: 1936 Fire

Post by Tom »

Doh. Case of the Mondays. Just realized I said west of Siskiwit Camp, but it's west of Siskiwit Falls, which is of course the Malone Camp. The NatGeo map shows where they were - for instance, the "Falls" marker shown above appears on the topo map as "663 Delta/Triangle" - Marking the elevation and the fact that it was a triangulation point.
I've looked many times for the Mt. Ojibway marker, but I think it was removed. Same as the one on the trail from Moskey to Lake Ritchie. However, there are still others, up the Greenstone, Chippewa, etc. I tend to keep an eye on my route for the day and then make a call if I go looking for them while passing in the area. Others (like Falls) is something to do while at camp. Many are marked by rock cairns/circles that still stand today.

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dcclark
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Re: 1936 Fire

Post by dcclark »

There are some good reports from various crews sent out to find (and in some cases, re-set) benchmarks. Many are terse, but some are quite fun to read. I find the really old reports (usually turn-of-the-last-century) to be especially interesting as well as useless, in both cases because of the long-past waypoints they refer to. You can find those reports at https://www.ngs.noaa.gov/NGSDataExplorer/

Tom, there's a report from a 2017 recovery of the Ojibway mark in there! :)

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Re: 1936 Fire

Post by Bobcat1 »

I read a trip report with pictures of a guy (I think it was an off-duty park employee) who located and verified the marker point on Mt Saginaw about 10 years ago. If I recall correctly, it was under a spruce thicket and a pile of rocks. This guy set up a surveying tripod and used some electronic navigation equipment to exactly pinpoint it, then replaced the rocks and so on. He had pictures of his set-up. He hiked in from a boat beached in Conglomerate Bay.
19 RH-ML-TI-RH by kayak
16 RH-DF-MB-TI-RH-3M-RH by kayak
09 RH-DF-MC-TH-HL-SD-WC
00 WC-IM-WC
96 WC-FL-SB-SD-HL-CE-3M-RH
94 RH-DF-MB-3M-RH
92 RH-DF-LR-CW-HL-SD-IM-WC

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