Ride my train

Posted on January 10, 2012

It's called a train of thought when one thought or idea leads to another and another. You start thinking about orange juice and end up thinking about book shelves. What's up with that? Let me share a thought train I had recently, which started with invasive species in the Great Lakes then veered off on a track of it's own.

Ever heard of a parasitic copepod? Several species of these little crustaceans are on the list of non-indigenous invasive species that occur in the Laurentian Great Lakes. (Remember that term, "Laurentian." In a nutshell, they are fish ticks and generally cause little harm to the fish they infest.

All the technical papers I perused to become educated on the little creatures, referred to the Laurentian Great Lakes. I've heard the word Laurentian used from time to time, mostly by people wearing white coats and sporting initials after their names, and wondered why they called the Great Lakes the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Could be it makes the collective name for lakes Michigan, Superior, Erie, Ontario and Huron sound more scholarly. It could be to differentiate them from the other Great Lakes. Iowa has a chain of lakes - Okoboji, Spirit and others often called the Iowa Great Lakes.

The tourism people in Roscommon County refer to Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake and Lake St. Helen as Michigan's "other" Great Lakes. I'm sure there are more places with great lake systems of their own.

So what does Laurentian mean or where does the word originate? There was a Laurentian period in geologic time (such as the Jurassic period or Cetacious period) but it was over long before the Great Lakes were formed. The most likely definition is: Pertaining to, or near, the St. Lawrence River. Lake Ontario drains into the St. Lawrence and all the other lakes drain into Lake Ontario so I guess that makes our Great Lakes the Laurentian ones.

But the train rumbles on. Why was the St. Lawrence River given it's name?

Google to the rescue again. Saint Lawrence was a Roman Catholic Saint from the fourth century, a patron to cooks and chefs, and honored by a feast day, Aug. 10. The French explorer, Jacques Cartier, was the first European explorer to encounter the huge river and named it the St. Lawrence because the date was Aug. 10.

Cartier was also the person who gave Canada its name, but that's another train of thought.

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