8mm film of the M/V John J. Boland entering Duluth, Minnesota’s harbor and blasting her horns!

Duluth Minnesota’s 2019 shipping season officially ended this week with the arrival of the M/V Honorable James L. Oberstar, an 806-foot-long lake freighter, on January 14th, 2020. According to duluthharborcam.com, the Oberstar will be in winter layup at a shipyard until the 2020 season begins in 8 weeks.

With that in mind, I thought this week would be a great time to share some recent 8mm film of the 680-foot M/V John J. Boland entering Duluth’s harbor. I captured the footage (embedded above) on November 29, 2019 with my 1962 Leitz Leicina 8SV movie camera on CINE8 50D Color Negative film (rebranded as CINE8 40D). The film was purchased from, processed and scanned by The Film Photography Project. The audio was recorded externally with a Zoom H1n Handy Recorder and synced in post.

To give some context to the footage, the John J. Boland is seen entering the Port of Duluth from Lake Superior through a shipping canal that connects the lake to Duluth’s protected harbor. Left of frame, in the direction the Boland is heading, Duluth’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge (not shown) crosses over the shipping canal. The bridge allows vehicle and pedestrian traffic to move across the canal, but traffic is stopped and its span is lifted whenever large vessels need to pass under.

Approximately 25 seconds into the video you can hear the John J. Boland blow her horns three times, one long blast and two short, followed by a similar response from the Aerial Lift Bridge. This particular greeting is known as a Captain’s Salute. The use of radio communications has made horn signaling like this unnecessary under normal circumstances, but these exchanges are continued to this day as part of a long-standing tradition in Duluth.

The structure seen in the short clip at the end of this video is an old unloading dock on the shore of Lake Superior known as Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum. Located just north of the entrance to Duluth’s shipping canal, the structure was built in 1919 by a local businessman named Harvey Whitney. Whitney had hoped to speed up the unloading of gravel by doing so in the lake rather than inside Duluth’s busy (but protected) harbor. Unfortunately, the unpredictably rough nature of Lake Superior made the dock too dangerous for ships to use and the structure was abandoned by 1922.

You can view more footage from this same roll on my post entitled Stormy Lake Superior on 8mm Film.

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