Monday, June 29, 2009

Mysteries of the Great Lakes

After 17 years of living in Michigan, I decided it was finally time to see the state's largest city. Detroit seems so far away, and I've only been in the city proper once, when I stopped downtown to pickup my husband for the drive up to Traverse City, on my second visit after we decided to relocate from Washington, D.C. That was in 1992. In the intervening years, all I've seen of Detroit are the signs on I-75 as we bypass it on our way to North Carolina.

So with my daughter and husband (our son was away at camp), we embarked on a weekend excursion to Motown and Ann Arbor. On arrival at our hotel Thursday evening, we learned of the sad death of Michael Jackson, and that was a bit of a deja vu moment. In the summer of 1977, I was checking into an Atlanta hotel with my vacationing family when we learned of the death of Elvis; I was about the same age my daughter is now.

On Friday we toured the Detroit Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts, the highlight of which, for me, was finally getting to see the Diego Rivera murals. May they never meet the fate that has befallen so much of Detroit's fine architecture.

There is much to lament in Detroit, which in many places gives the appearance of a war-torn city. But a city that takes care of those Rivera murals will always be a city to cherish.

Another point of hope came from a little film we say at the IMAX theater at the science museum across the street from the Rivera murals. There really were no mysteries presented in Mysteries of the Great Lakes, which I suspect received its title because it was deemed more luring to schoolchildren than something descriptive like "Restoring the Great Lakes." The primary plotline of this film was the effort to rescue the lake sturgeon from the brink of extinction.

Apparently the sturgeon is to the Great Lakes what the buffalo is to the Great Plains, although not quite as iconic. This species has been around for 150 million years and was plentiful in our waters prior to the usual exploitative overfishing brought about by greed (their eggs are called "caviar"). Now only a few decimated populations exist and biologists are desperately trying to restore spawning grounds to support the fish version of test-tube babies -- eggs deposited in the few remaining active spawning sites, fertilized in a mobile lab and hatched in containers filled with water from the designated transplant spawn river, which the young sturgeon will hopefully accept as a new home and return each year to repopulate.

The scene that made my eyes water was near the end, when the biologists gathered along the Black River in Wisconsin to await the return of the sturgeon to the spawning grounds. They were cheered on by dozens, maybe hundreds, of local residents lining the banks, all there to protect and cheer on the sturgeon. Are we humans finally starting to get it?

1 comment:

kta said...

Nice post, Sharon. Like you, I hope we humans are finally starting to get it. And like you, I have lived in Michigan for a decade and a half without visiting Detroit. Maybe it's time! --Katie