Ecology of the Great Lakes course at Michigan Tech

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Great Lakes Series at the Library

Great Lakes Education

Great Lakes Maritime Shipping Website

Captain Laban
Great Lakes Ship Captain Laban
Captain Laban
Great Lakes Ship Deckhand Wiitanen


Cargo_and_Products Game



Great Lakes Series @ The Portage Lake  Library
The Great Lakes Series @ The Library

"Working Aboard Great Lakes Ships"

"Life & Work Aboard Ship" Flyer PDF File

Agenda: What It Takes To Be A Ship Captain
& Deck Hand PDF File

The Portage Lake District Library held their second in a series of six programs about the Great Lakes on Monday evening, January 8. The program was “Life Aboard Ship: What It Takes To Be A Ship Captain & Deck Hand” in the community room of the new library.

Captain Dave Laban of  Houghton described his experiences working as a Great Lakes ship captain over the past 20 years traveling from Duluth to Chicago, Detroit, Toledo, Buffalo, and points in between.

As a graduate of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City in 1984, he talked about the skills needed and opportunities available for pursuing a career in maritime technology as a licensed officer aboard commercial vessels of all types, including research ships, harbor tugs, barges, cruise ships and bulk carriers (“ore boats”).

Deck hand Derek Wiitanen of Dollar Bay shared his experiences working the past two summers aboard Great Lakes freighters in Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. A 2004 graduate of Dollar Bay High School, Derek joined his uncle and great-uncle who work full-time aboard Great Lakes ships. Derek has found working summers aboard ship is a great way to fund his college career at Northern Michigan University.

Derek described his work responsibilities, a typical day aboard ship, ports that he’s visited; the fun and challenges of working on the ship; and how to get a job working aboard ship (qualifications and/or requirements).

After the opening presentation, K-6 students participated in several activities to learn more about Great Lakes shipping, such as: ship cargoes and their products, the parts of a ship, shipping lingo, tools used by captains and deck hands to do their jobs, and be challenged to safely navigate a ship through the harbor---don’t sink the ship!

Middle and high school students and adults had a chance to meet in small groups with Laban and Wiitanen to learn more details and ask questions. Captain Laban’s wife and family shared their experience from shore and as visitors aboard the ships.


The Great Lakes program series is coordinated by Joan Chadde of the Western Upper Peninsula Center  for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education at Michigan Tech, and funded by the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute and the Wege Foundation.

Everyone is invited to all the future Great Lakes program library events and presentations are free.

More About the Great Lakes Maritime Shipping Education Program and Great Lakes Maritime Shipping Games



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