(Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) Tempers flared again yesterday on frozen Whitefish Bay, Lake Superior, where over 150 U.S. and Canadian ice fishermen remained trapped on a huge ice floe that has been adrift along the U.S.-Canada border.
The fishing site has long been popular for its abundance of lake trout. Ice shacks from both the Ontario and U.S. sides of the border have traditionally been placed relatively far from the border itself to avoid fishermen inadvertantly finding themselves in the wrong country. Legally, any border crossing by a fisherman would require passing through customs first.
||Location of border flare-up is at the entrance to Whitefish Bay.
But now with the widespread use of GPS navigation devices, the ice shanties from the two countries are often placed within 20 feet of each other, lining up right along the invisible border. The close quarters have led to occasional, good-natured taunts between the two countrys' fishermen, and fortunately there have never been reports of any assaults or violence. An improvised sign has been erected which reads “U.S.-Canada Border”, with a yellow line melted in the snow extending for at least 100 feet away from the sign in each direction, marking the border itself.
The peaceful coexistence of the two countrys' fishermen was shattered last week when strong northerly winds caused the ice floe to separate from the Canadian shore, and it drifted southward, resulting in all of the Canadian ice shacks suddenly finding themselves in U.S. waters.
A few of the U.S. fishermen, upon discovering from their navigation devices that the Canadian shacks were in U.S. territory, escalated the tone of the taunts. Some of the Canadian fishermen finally tired of the verbal assaults, and allegedly retaliated with a volley of hockey sticks and pucks, used for daily hockey games that are played on the windswept ice.
As relations deteriorated further, each side placed a boom box on the border, blaring music toward the other side. While the U.S. fishermen played an old album by Ted Nugent, the Canadian boom box was heard playing The Guess Who's 'American Woman' over and over. One Michigan man remarked, "I used to really like the Guess Who....now I'm sick of hearing them."
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched to the site to start rescue operations, but many of the American fishermen refused to leave until the Canadians removed their shacks from U.S. waters. Coast Guardsman Ollie Hautenen said, “Our Michigan guys are really pissed. They say it’s the principle of the thing. We’ve been trying to get them to give it up and come on home, but many of them are refusing. What a mess, eh?”.
“I’ve got enough beef jerky, pasties, and beer to last a month, and that’s how long I’m gonna stay, until these Canucks take their frozen butts back where they belong”, said Bob VanSmelt, a sawmill owner from Rudyard, Michigan.
Ontario Provincial Police officers were busy airlifting fishermen off the ice sheet with their own helicopter, hoping to get everyone rescued within two days. As he climbed aboard the helicopter, an unnamed Canadian fisherman was heard remarking, “...arrogant Yank buttheads…”
A U.S. State Department official told ecoEnquirer, “We are monitoring the situation closely, and believe that it can be resolved before anyone gets hurt. The last thing we need to have this escalate into a serious international incident.”
UPDATE (10:30 CST March 3)
We have received a report that two U.S. Air Force F-16's have been scrambled out of K.I Sawyer AFB in Michigan to intercept what are believed to be two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-16 Hornets, based out of North Bay, Ontario. The Canadian fighter jets were apparently dispatched to monitor the conflict site during the evacuation of the Canadian fishermen. A state department spokesperson told ecoEnquirer that this is standard operating procedure in such cases, and that this did not represent any kind of escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Canada.
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