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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Great Lakes Blue Whale Sighting of 2019


by Sam Fitzpatrick

On July 21, 2019, during the Tall Ships Festival, Avram Golden, local artist, photographer, and business owner of Avram Golden of Golden Gallery, captured a once-in-a-lifetime photo of a Great Lakes Blue Whale breaching by the Liberty Bridge.

Avram.jpgAvram was standing at the northern end of Wenonah Park with his camera in hand watching the Picton Castle depart the festival. He reported that around 5 PM the Liberty Bridge had risen creating a traffic back-up. After snapping a few shots, Avram remembered hearing a crowd of onlookers raise their voices and point. In the wake of the Picton Castle, there seemed to be a disturbance just under the surface. Avram picked up his camera and pointed the lens at the ship. The disturbance was now on the starboard side. After taking several pictures, a Great Lakes Blue Whale breached the surface of the river. Gasps and shouts came from the crowds amassed on the bridge and riverfronts. The whale thundered back down into the water, splashing the crew onboard the Picton Castle.


This was a rare sighting indeed. The Great Lakes Blue Whales (Balaenoptera freshush) are a rare species of whale closely related to their saltwater cousins, the Blue Whale, or Balaenoptera musculus.  These whales rarely make an appearance above the surface, and the fact that this happened during a major event makes it all the rarer. Great Lakes Blue Whales are believed to have swum up the St. Laurence River millennia ago, possibly during the end of the last Ice Age. If true, this would place them in the Euryhaline category, or marine animals that can breathe a variety of salinities.

Sailors from Bay County—past and present—have shared stories about seeing these majestic creatures breach the surface of the water but rarely had a camera at hand. Avram’s quick snapping and timing could not have been more perfect.

The Great Lakes Blue Whales typically keep to themselves but have been known to stir up trouble with humans. One story from The Bay City Times details how the SS Fictus Navis encountered such a whale on the Saginaw Bay between Charity Island and Sand Point during the spring of 1887. Unfortunately, the whale was too close and caused the ship to nearly capsize. It was merely a close call, and the ship sailed to Bay Port for emergency repairs. 


The now-famous image has been on the covers of Rolling Stone, Time, National Geographic, and The National Enquirer. 

Alright—if you’ve made it this far and haven’t figured it out, April Fools from the BCHS! There are no whales on the Great Lakes.



“Local photographer captures once in a lifetime shot”. The Bay City Times. July 40, 2019.

“Vessel suffers damage; nearly capsized”. The Bay City Times-Press. May 35, 1887.

“Fictus Navis reaches Halifax unscathed”. The Bay City Times-Press. June 12 ½ , 1887.

“Fictus Navis whale story bogus; captain just inebriated”. The Boston Herald. October 200, 1888.

“Michigan photographer catches rare sight”. Detroit Free Press. July 36, 2019.

“Nova Scotian vessel nearly struck by Great Lakes Blue Whale”. Halifax Examiner. July 32, 2019.

“Wait—the Great Lakes have whales?!”. The New York Times. August 0, 2019.

”No, there aren’t whales in the lakes!”. The Muskegon Chronicle. September 33, 2019.

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Friday, March 15, 2024

From the Stacks with Jamie: Staudacher Family


by Jamie Kramer

Frederick Staudacher married Rosina Barbara Arnold on November 25, 1886 in Frankenlust Township, MI.[1]

staudacher1.jpgHere are the bride and groom in their wedding attire.  The bride beautifully adorned in her gown, possibly silk, with lace embellishments around the collar, cuffs, and layered in the pleats of the skirt.  Buttons trail along the front of the bodice.  Flowers are gathered around her veil and pinned at the gathered lace at her shoulders.  It finishes with a bustle in back with a train.  The groom wears a plain suit common for the 1880s with matching flowers pinned to his lapel. 

After their marriage, they lived on State Road which eventually became Salzburg.[1] On August 13, 1888, they welcomed a baby girl and named her Lydia Staudacher.[2]  In 1891, Walter Frederick Staudacher was born.[3] Their sister, Ethel followed on September 12, 1894.[4] 

This photograph, taken sometime around 1895, includes L-R: Rosina Staudacher née Arnold, Ethel Staudacher, Lydia Staudacher, Walter Staudacher, and Fred Staudacher.

Another baby girl, Ottilie Staudacher, was born in March of 1898.[1]  In 1899, tragedy struck the family when their 11 year old daughter, Lydia, died of Cerebral Meningitis on November 5.[2]

In 1900, the family has a farm and still lives in the same location on State in West Bay City. Rosina’s mother Barbara Arnold is now living with them.[3] During this time Fred is employed as a Teamster.  According to, “In, 1900, the typical teamster worked 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week for an average wage of $2.00 per day.”[4] They would haul loads of various goods by horse-drawn wagon. 

On October 07, 1902, they welcomed their last child, Irene Staudacher.  Sadly, she lived only 5 days.[5]

In 1910, the family was still living on Salzburg with three children at home.  Fred worked as a Forman and appears to have been involved with building the county Stone Road.  Walter, 19 at this time, was also working on building roads.[6] By 1920, Walter is living outside of the home.  Fred is still working as a Foreman for Stone Road, Ethel is a school teacher, and Ottilie is listed as a laborer at the sugar company.[7] In 1920, they have a house full.  Their daughters Ethel and Ottilie both live in the home in addition to Ottilie’s new husband, Julius J. Reutter, and their children Eilieen, Lucile, and Kathryn.[8]

On October 2, 1938, at 75 years of age, and after a year battle with lung cancer, Rosina Barbara Staudacher née Arnold, died.[9] 

“Old Resident of Salzburg is Dead: Mrs. Rosina B. Staudacher Succumbs Sunday.  Mrs. Rosina B. Staudacher…a pioneer resident of Bay County, died at 2:30 a.m. Sunday at her home, 910 Salzburg Avenue.  She had been ill for some time and continue to bed since last May.  Death was the result of complications arising from age.  Mrs. Staudacher was born March 28, 1863, in Frankenmuth, and came to Bay County as a child with her parents.  She lived in Monitor and Kawkawlin townships until her marriage…to Fred Staudacher.  Since then they have made their home at Salzburg Avenue address.  She was a member of the Zion Lutheran Church and the Ladies’ Aid Society…”[10]

Fred Staudacher died four years later on February 16, 1943.[11]

“Fred Staudacher Dies at Age of 85: Was Lifelong Resident of Salzburg Area. Frederick Staudacher, 85, lifelong resident of Salzburg and for more than 50 years a builder of macadamized roads in Bay County, died at his home, 910 Salzburg Avenue, Tuesday afternoon at 3:45 o’clock.  Death occurred at the same address where he was born Jan. 24, 1858, and resulted from coronary thromboses, from which he had suffered for more than four years.  Mr. Staudacher, son of pioneer Bay County parents, frequently recalled incidents in early county history, such as the arrival of the first train here, use of ferries to cross the Saginaw River, and the way in which the first hard-surface road, from Euclid Avenue to Frankenlust, on which he worked, was built by crushing large stones by hand mallets, and fitting the pieces into the roadbed.”[12]

[1] Ottilie Staudacher. 1900 U.S. Census. West Bay City, MI. FHL 1240702. Accessed  

[2] Staudacher, Lydia. 05 Nov 1899. Michigan, U.S., Death Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

[3] Ibid. 1900 U.S. Census

[4] International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (n.d.). Accessed 5 Oct 2021.

[5] "Find a Grave", database, Find a Grave ( : accessed 5 Oct 2021), memorial page for Irene Staudacher (1902-1902), Find A Grave Memorial no. 149980177; citing Saint Paul Lutheran Cemetery, Bay City, Bay, MI, USA;  the accompanying photographs by Rabbit.

[6] 1910 U.S. Census. Bay City, MI. FHL microfilm 1374650. Accessed on

[7] 1920 U.S. Census. Bay City, MI. Roll: T625_755. Accessed on

[8] 1930 U.S. Census. Bay City, MI. FHL microfilm 2340710.  Accessed on

[9] Staudacher, Rosina Barbara. 2 Oct 1938 Michigan, U.S., Death Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

[10] (1938, October 3). Bay City Times, p. 3. Available from NewsBank: America's News – Historical and Current

[11] Staudacher, Frederick. 14 Feb 1943 Michigan, U.S., Death Records, 1867-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

[12] (1943, February 17). Bay City Times, p. 4. Available from NewsBank: America's News – Historical and Current

[1] Directory

[2] "Michigan, County Births, 1867-1917," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 July 2021), Ladea Staudacher, 13 Aug 1888; citing Birth, various county courts, Michigan

[3] "Michigan Births and Christenings, 1775-1995", database, FamilySearch ( : 17 January 2020), Walter F. Staudacher, 1892.

[4] "Michigan, County Births, 1867-1917," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 July 2021), Ethel R Staudacher, 12 Sep 1894; citing Birth, various county courts, Michigan.

[1] Bay City, Michigan, marriage record no. 4392 (1886), Frederick Staudacher and Rosina B. Arnold; Michigan Department of Community Health. Accessed



1:43 pm edt 

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