Viking Octantis makes port at Houghton

The Viking Octantis cruise ship enters the Portage Lake canal at White City. (Courtesy photo)

HOUGHTON — “Holy moly!”

Julie Dunstan’s first thought at seeing Viking Octantis was echoed by many residents who flocked to the nearest vantage points to see the 665-foot ship Wednesday.

After three scheduled visits were scrubbed due to weather, the Octantis anchored near Dollar Bay Wednesday morning.

Passengers boarded a muster boat that took them from the ship to Bridgeview Park in Houghton, where they were greeted by a performance from the Kivajat Dancers.

From there, they explored the downtown and toured sites in the Keweenaw.

“We love Houghton!” said Claire Wolfe of Dublin, Ohio. “I’ve loved this whole Viking trip because I’ve gone places I’ve never been before. I would’ve never even heard of Houghton without this trip.”

Wolfe carried a bag from Michigan Made, which she called “a lovely store with the nicest people.”

One of Wolfe’s grandsons, who has an interest in science, is graduating high school next year. Wolfe found information about Michigan Technological University and texted it to her daughter-in-law.

“You’ve made a fan,” she said.

Some people had connections to the area. John Norton of Dayton, Ohio, had a mother born and raised in Hancock, while his dad went to Michigan Tech. He also lived in the area for a time.

He’d been on the lookout for a cruise that could take him back to the area.

When he was here, the Quincy Mine Hoist was just “an abandoned industrial site” where he and his cousin used to trespass.

“It was really nice to see the group fixing that up and keeping it in shape,” he said.

Wolfe and Susan Hubbell of Lima, Ohio, visited the Quincy Mine Hoist and took a seaplane ride.

“Beautiful weather,” Hubbell said. “Clear skies. You could see everything you wanted to see.”

They’ve also enjoyed the scientific presentations, which included the launch Wednesday morning of a weather balloon that will transmit data to the National Oceanic and NOAA. Guests hear from experts in fields from geology to ornithology, said Sandy Cadwallader, a naturalist on Octantis.

“It’s not come on board and drink and party,” he said. “It’s come on board and learn. Come on board and meet Ph.D.s, meet scientists that have spent their careers learning all sorts of stuff, and getting grants doing stuff, not just from Antarctica, but up to the Arctic.”

Octantis has a Ferry box on board which allows it to take in lake water through the ship’s bottom and run tests, including determining the presence of microplastics.

The Portage Canal is one of the narrowest channels Cadwallader has seen in his career, which he said made navigating trickier. But everyone was “blown away” to finally be in Houghton, he said.

Despite some hiccups with construction and the bridge going up, it had been a great trip, said Jill Patterson of Great Lakes Shore Excursions, the logistics company working with Viking.

“I think everybody I’ve talked to had a really great time,” she said. “They enjoyed the city. They thought it was cute. It was a good day.”

At Michigan Technological University, people streamed in and out of Lot 10 to catch a view of the boat below. At Prince’s Point Park, Dunstan and her friend Judy Kangas of Appleton, Wisconsin snapped selfies with the boat in the background.

Dunstan was happy to see the ship arrive in the area. When the Dollar Bay resident heard the ship had arrived, she got in her car, pulled over along the trail, ran down and took a picture.

“I just think it brings so much money to the area, which is great,” she said. “It’s such an economic boost. And it’s beautiful.”


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