The tragic loss of three people August, 2018, near the Apostle Islands, was a sobering reminder that Lake Superior is capable of a great deal of damage, and even in the summer months, the lake’s waters are dangerously cold when far from shore.
September 2nd, 2018 Minneapolis Star Tribune Article: A Light on a Dark Lake Superior Led to Sole Kayak Survivor
Kayaker safety has been an issue for this part of Lake Superior for a long time, especially when kayakers end up outside of the protected area of the islands and into open water; here kayakers are susceptible to freak waves, upwelling cold spots, changing wave directions and fast moving storms. Kayakers need to know their skill level and have an idea of what conditions they will face.
Related WAOW.com article: Red Cliff to Build Cell Tower in Wake of Drownings
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have shown that it is possible to make these factors more accessible to kayakers by using algorithms and real-time data to create an easily reference-able skill-level marking system (Safety Index) for one route in particular. Since 2014, a kiosk has provided real-time footage of the route to the Mainland (Mawikwe) Sea Caves of the Apostle Islands archipelago along with a Safety Index number based on state-of-the-art weather and wave modelling using radar-reflectivity data, wave directions and wave height.
- The information displayed on-site at the kiosk is also accessible here. Check out other Information about the Sea Caves Watch program at the Sea Caves website.
Though it is called a “lake”, Superior contains a huge amount of water which can be more akin to a Sea, unpredictable and extremely dangerous. The remote location of many kayaking destinations makes it hard to access the latest information for safety conditions, making onsite information like the Apostle Islands Safety Index Kiosk very important.