The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes or the Laurentian Great Lakes (from the name of the glacial ice sheet that formed them) may sometimes be referred to as the inland seas, due to the characteristics that it shares with the open oceans (long sustained winds, extremely strong currents, and long rolling waves). The lakes are a series of five interconnected fresh water lakes that are located in the Northern Midwest of North America. They were glacial formed nearly twenty thousand years ago when the planet started to warm causing the glacial sheets to retreat and start to melt. The massive size of the North American ice sheet carved the surrounding land into a basin and the melting waters would then go onto fill the basin we now call the Great Lakes.
FUN FACT: Lake Superior is the largest lake in North America by both surface area and volume, while Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes by volume, but it beats Lake Ontario in size by surface area and it is the only Great Lake whose maximum depth is not below sea level. It is also the shallowest of the Great Lakes at 210 feet.
The five lakes are Lake Erie, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, and Lake Michigan. The names originated either from Native American or French languages. The five lakes combined make up the largest body of fresh water on the planet. They account for just over twenty percent of earth’s unfrozen fresh water and approximately eighty five percent of North America’s fresh water supplies. They contain six quadrillion gallons of water and has an area of over ninety five thousand square miles. If the water was spread across the contiguous United States, we would be swimming in almost ten foot of water. The shoreline of the Great Lakes is over ten thousand miles and creates one thousand miles of international border.
FUN FACT: The five major Great Lakes are bordered by eight U.S. states but only one Canadian province.
There are over two hundred and fifty species of fish in the Great Lakes and this brings the concern of environmental impacts on the Lakes. The fisheries started to decline as far back as the late eighteen hundreds. The native fish had to contend with increased water temperatures, and loss of habitat, and increased silt levels from poor forestry and agricultural practices. Direct discharge from factories and waste from major cities created many health impacts for fish and humans alike. Many people thought that the enormous amount of water contained within the basin would prevent situation from happening, but when you look at the fact of pollutant retention times ranging just over two and a half years for Lake Erie to the one hundred and ninety one years for Lake Superior, one can begin to see that what we put in will not go away any time soon. Some of the issues have been addressed, but today we face many invasive species to add to the list.
FUN FACT: Despite its small size, Lake Erie is the most biologically productive of all the Great Lakes with more fish taken from it commercially than all of the other Great Lakes combined and is even home to the mythical “monster” named Bessie that is said to be thirty to forty feet in length.