MARQUETTE — Rescues on Lake Superior are a major component of what Coast Guard personnel in the U.P. do every day.
In the summer, emergencies on the lake arise on the open water, but when a wintertime rescue call comes in, the crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Marquette have to hit the ice rather than the waves.
“It’s completely different than the summer, because we have to adapt to the ice, and instead of driving boats like we do in the summer, we have to use the equipment that we have and go to wherever the person fell through, and rescue them with the techniques and the equipment that we’ve been trained to use,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Gerard Gagnon.
Inflatable rafts and a pulley–equipped backboard are some of the tools that Coast Guard rescue teams use to bring stranded citizens to safety. Rescuers are equipped with dry suits and other equipment to keep the cold at bay.
“We also have to wear life jackets, and there’s a few other pieces of equipment that we have to wear, so that if we get lost, the Coast Guard can come find us as well,” Gagnon added.
Whether it’s a warm day in July or the middle of the winter, Lake Superior’s low temperatures can lead to hypothermia quickly. No matter the time of year, lake travelers should tell a friend that that they’re venturing out and when they’ll return, always have a means of communication — like a cell phone in a waterproof case — and know how the equipment they’re using works.