Big Ship!


Doesn’t this photo just exude cold?  It was December in Duluth, MN and it was freezing!  It must have been about  -20°F, and I was freezing.  I travelled up to Duluth from Minneapolis to try and record some big shipping vessels that run on the Great Lakes.  Duluth, MN is one of the major stops on Lake Superior (some called it Gitche Gumee) where ships pick up coal and takonite pellets.  Shipping on the Great Lakes has slowed considerably over the last 20 years, but the ships are quite a sight to see and hear.

In order for the ships to get in and out of the docks they have to pass under a lift bridge and make their way through a narrow canal.  On this day, the Walter J. McCarthy Jr. picked up some takonite pellets and passed under the lift bridge around noon.  If you listen closely you can hear the ship passing through ice sitting on top of the water, before the ship blows it horn (warning this is a very dynamic recording).  Once the ship passes you’ll also hear the voice of the maritime museum’s educator on an outdoor PA system, and the warning bells of the Duluth lift bridge sounds as the bridge descends.

Recording Geek Note:  Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5 setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid.  It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96 in the freezing cold.  I also couldn’t have made this trip without the help of my loyal friend Johnny Vince Evans.

Photos courtesy of Johnny Vince Evans.

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  1. That horn just fills all available space! Very cool, nice job keeping such wide dynamics super clean. Reminds me of some ambiences from Half Life 2, actually, with the reverb and echo on the loudspeaker. Nice work as always.

    1. The canal that ship passed through created that natural slap effect. It was also freezing cold! Did I mention the fact that it was cold?

  2. I think this might be my favorite one yet. I love listening to these as I start my day…it’s a bit like continuing to be half in the dream world as I slowly acclimate to the brick-and-mortar world of life. Thank you for suffering the cold (a lifetime ago, I lived in Wisconsin…I understand cold) to make this one!

  3. nice recording! thank you for sharing this great soundscape. i really like how clear and detailed it is. i can imagine being there. except i can’t quite picture the weather… how was it again? i think you may have said something about it at one point…

  4. nice. love the running announcement about the ship as it passes. I can relate to cold weather recording. sitting still is the last thing you want to do at those temperatures.

Michael Raphael September 23, 2009