North Shore Anorthosite

I was impressed last week by how much more rugged the north shore of Lake Superior is than the south shore, which I’m much more familiar with. Imposing rocky cliffs rear up all over the place.

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According to a naturalist we talked to, these formations are a very old type of igneous rock called anorthosite. I’m no geologist, so beyond “really old” and “igneous” (formed by cooling magma) I can’t really tell you a whole lot about it. All I can say is that it felt decidedly odd to be looking south across Lake Superior .

A Brand-New Dragonfly

While we were frolicking on the shore of Lake Superior we came across something I’d never seen before.

A young dragonfly, just emerged from its nymph stage, still resting on a rock and drying its wings in preparation for flight. (At first I wasn’t one hundred percent sure this was a dragonfly, given the damselfy-like way its wings were folded across its back at this point, but they spread out as they dried.) While doing a little research in preparation for writing this post I learned that there’s a technical term for that cast-off exoskeleton still visible next to it: the exuvia.

I don’t know anything about identifying dragonflies, but when no one answered my initial “ID Request” posting to BugGuide I resorted to trying to figure it out myself. It was the Wikipedia article on dragonflies that finally helped me get it to family level, because it mentioned that the only family of dragonflies whose eyes don’t meet in the middle are clubtails. Ta-da! After that it was merely a matter of browsing through the clubtail photos on BugGuide until I found something that matched. This is, I believe, an Eastern Least Clubtail, Stylogomphus albistylus. Many of the images showed a much darker-colored and more boldly-marked dragonfly, but I finally figured out that apparently their color changes as they dry and become flight-worthy.

I’d seen dragonfly nymphs before, and I’d seen adult dragonflies before, but I’d never seen one just past that moment of transition like this. Very cool.

The North Coast

Last week one of the administrators of the school where I’m working made me laugh by referring to this part of the country as the North Coast. “If there’s the East Coast, and the West Coast, then the Great Lakes are the North Coast!” It reminded me of an argument I got into in Georgia when someone referred to Ohio, my home state, as being land-locked. Land-locked? Land-locked?! Have you heard of something called Lake Erie? Try convincing anyone from a Great Lakes state that they’re land-locked.

One of my coworkers is from California and had never seen any of the Great Lakes prior to this past weekend. He confirmed my feelings by immediately declaring, “That’s not a lake, that’s an ocean. Whoever named it must not have realized how big it was.” Yes, any body of water big enough to have its own shipwrecks, its own lighthouses, its own history of naval battles (every Ohio schoolchild learns about Commodore Perry) is more than just an ordinary lake.

And Superior is, well, superior.

After nine months of the murky coastal marshes of Georgia, Lake Superior, cold and crystal clear and, on Friday, smooth as glass, was like something out of a dream.

I dabbled my feet in the water and watched my coworkers skip rocks halfway to Canada. What an incredible place.