Among The Islands, December 26

The lighthouses were shuttered for the winter by this time most years, so log entries will be sparse for a while. That does not mean the Apostle Islands were deserted, though. Seventy-two years ago today, one desperate man found that the path to survival led to Michigan Island:

Lost Fisherman Is Found Saved Wednesday

Bayfield County Press, Dec. 29, 1938

Carl Olson of Madeline Island Has Close Call in Storm

Carl Olson, lost Madeline Island fishermen, was picked up Wednesday forenoon between Madeline and Michigan Islands, where he was found rowing toward home following a forced stay on Michigan Island since Monday’s severe snow storm. He was picked up by Ever Bodin, Bayfield fisherman, who was en route to Michigan Island waters.

Olson had left Madeline with a rowboat Monday morning for the purpose of tending to his fishing lines. While out in the lake he became suddenly overtaken by the storm which came up so rapidly that he was unable to make his home dock. He was believed lost and probably drowned because of the fact that it would be impossible for a small boat to stand the strain of such a sea and it was further considered impossible for an oarsman to handle a boat under such conditions even though he may have known his bearings.

However, Olson managed by good luck and dead reckoning to reach Michigan Island where he found shelter until the storm blew over. Wednesday morning he attempted the homeward trip and was met by the Bodin boat, Marie.

He was reported to be in fine health and good spirits and presumably not the worse for his experience. Olson is 55 years old and a bachelor, residing on the north end of Madeline Island.

When Olson failed to return from his Monday fishing trip, fear for his safety caused island residents to spread the news and notified the Coast Guard cutter Diligence of Two Harbors. Weather conditions at the time made it useless for local boats to attempt the trip until the storm subsided. The cutter was notified immediately when Olson was found.

Most likely Olson sought refuge not in the lighthouse, but in one of the fishing cabins near the island’s southern tip. It was a local tradition that island cabins were left unlocked during the winter, with a supply of provisions sufficient to sustain anyone seeking emergency shelter.

The National Park Service honored this tradition until recently, maintaining a small emergency cabin on far-out Cat Island. Affectionately known as the Cat House, the cabin was built by the NPS in 1988 to replace an earlier shelter that had stood there as long as anyone could remember. Current management tore it down a few years ago; having cabins on the islands no longer fit with the new vision of the archipelago as unexplored wilderness.

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3 Responses to Among The Islands, December 26

  1. Nan says:

    I hated to see that one go. On top of the potential for screwing up relations with the public by messing with local traditions, the cabin was so new and in such good condition that it seemed like a real shame to demolish and remove it.

  2. Bob Dahl says:

    I see you get your licks in when you can. Good!

  3. Ranger Bob says:

    It’s sad, Bob. Talk about a management flip-flop. First we spend tax money to rebuild it, then we spend more to tear it down. I don’t take any pleasure in recounting the story.

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