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It sounds like a prehistoric epic, made into a Hollywood movie. Nearly 10,000 years ago, the bottom of Lake Huron was dry land. Stone-Age hunters stalked herds of caribou here.

How do we know this? NewScientist.com tells us:

Scientists sonar-imaged the floor of Lake Huron and found snaking human-built structures. John O’Shea and Guy Meadows of the University of Michigan say that when the huge Laurentide ice sheet melted and flooded the basin, it potentially preserved intact Native American sites – which are rare in the Great Lakes region.

The sonar images reveal a rocky topography with cliffs and dead-ends that would have been ideal for posting lookouts and ambushing migrating caribou.

The scans also show some structures which the two scientists believe are human-made. A line of large rocks, sometimes arranged one upon the other, form a long parapet. At the end of the parapet are boulders, seemingly pushed together into several piles.

Now, these rock arrangements – they look remarkably similar to the hunting drives and blinds that Inuits currently use – and have used – in the Canadian Arctic for hundreds of years. The parapet, or “drive”, helps guide the animals towards archers hiding behind the groups of boulders, or “hunting blinds”. It’s an amazing find of native North American cultural continuity. There’s more here.

This is the sort of discovery we at Travel Dynamics International really like. That’s why we’ve invited Scott Demel, a Great Lakes archaeologist with Chicago’s Field Museum, to join us on our Great Lakes cruise from July 18-25. He’s extensively researched the Archaic prehistory of the Great Lakes region (9,000-2,500 years ago), a really fascinating epoch: the Laurentide ice sheet melted about 8,000 years ago, creating the Great Lakes.

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In addition to everything else, the Great Lakes are also home to some of the most interesting little critters on the planet.

You may have heard of extremophiles. They’re the microscopic organisms living in places that, by rights, should be off-limits to any living thing: volcanic vents, super-cold environments, whacked-out reaches in the upper atmosphere where O2 is at a premium, but you can get crazy-deadly cosmic rays by the wholesale.

Turns out, the Great Lakes has ’em by the bucketload. 60 feet down, in these FRESHWATER LAKES, researchers have discovered sinkholes – over 300 feet across – filled with BRINY WATER. This, you might think, is slightly odd. Turns out, groundwater is rising through the bedrock into the lake, dissolving minerals in the bedrock. The bedrock is actually an ancient seabed more than 400 million years old. And in these briny holes, microscopic bacterial colonies are thriving.

These bacterial colonies – brilliant purple cyanobacteria – are close relatives to other colonies found living among the “black smokers” in the deep ocean, as well as bacterial colonies found in submerged Antarctic glacial lakes.

Read more here.

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mackinawislandWe’ve just had two days of early Spring here in New York, and that gets me thinking about summer. It’s been a tricky winter, right? But it’s all for the good – I think we’re all taking stock, figuring out the best way to live our lives, rather than the most. Spend time with family, make friends, and try to have interesting experiences.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty positive. I’m looking at this country with different eyes: I’m proud of us, of what we’ve done, and what we have yet to do. I’ve traveled around a lot, and spent a long time in Europe – I’ve seen a lot of the world, not even considering that I’ve neglected, that we’ve neglected, America itself. “I’ve come to look for America,” Simon & Garfunkel sang, but if you’re like me you’d like a little more comfort than the backpack-and-Greyhound way of doing things.

This summer, we’re going to start running a wonderful small ship, the Clelia II, through the Great Lakes. Now, normally I like my trips a bit more exotic. But when I saw the rocky coasts of Lake Superior, the wave-washed lighthouses and the wooded forests along the coasts, I kept thinking: wouldn’t this be nice? One time, I spent July 4th on a sailboat anchored in Lake Michigan. The scent of the fresh water made me feel alert and alive. My fiancée reminisces about childhood summers spent at a beach-house on the Upper Peninsula. It was really idyllic, and so traditionally American, in the best sense, that I wanted to discover more.

Once upon a time, we used to spend our summers this way, cruising the Great Lakes. Fifty years later, we get to do it again. I hope you enjoy this song, below, by way of introduction. I think it sets the scene nicely.

So welcome aboard. Make yourself at home. You’ll have friends here, and we’ll take it easy, while discovering a place we’ve never known before – our own back yard.

PS – TDI Radio’s got some great new tracks from the Great Lakes. Listen in.

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Bill Geist? Who’s he? Well, that’s okay if he’s not a household name. He’s not one of those flashy sorts. He doesn’t go in for a whole lot of self-promotion. He’s just an easy-going American journalist who really loves America in all its small-town quirkiness. For years, his segments on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” have brought home the friendly, the odd, the back-road and the out-of-the-way places all over the country.

That’s why we’re so pleased he could join us for our inaugural Great Lakes cruise this summer, from June 27-July 4 aboard the Clelia II. Here’s Bill with his granddaughter, walking through New York, telling her all about the differences between now and “Sunday Morning”‘s debut 30 years ago:

He’s going to be great fun, don’t you think?

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I never used to be one for tearjerkers. But maybe I’ve gotten sentimental in my dotage. You probably remember “Somewhere in Time,” the romance with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. As a writer, yep, I succumb to the set-up; much of my life is about literary time-travel, writing myself back into places of grandeur, elegance and romance.

That’s why I grow sentimental, thinking about “Somewhere in Time,” set among the tall colonnades of the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island. I think about a slower age, where horse-drawn carriages would clip-clop down cobblestone lanes, delivering the mail, the fresh milk, and the fudge up to Victorian doorsteps; where car exhaust is banned; and where we might be at ease, and in love, on an island in the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes: A Voyage through North America’s Magnificent Inland Seas, coming to you this summer aboard the 100-guest, all-suite Clelia II – reviving the romance of American history.

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Astute observers of our Great Lakes itinerary might observe that our terminal port of call is Duluth, Minnesoada. And I’ll bet you’re thinking: “Wow, can it really be? I’ve seen the Pyramids, Paris and the Pyrenées, but I never once thought I’d ever get to Duluth!

O great World Traveler, yes, you can have it all. And for thee of little faith, I say: stay a while. I’ve been in the travel industry for more than a decade, and I can tell you that Duluth is far more than a funny word with double u’s. I have it on excellent authority that Duluth is a mysterious place of drama and excitement:

And who should know more about drama and excitement than Minnesota’s own Al Franken, who’s now locked in an interminable race for Senate? Here’s his take on Minnesota’s biggest port city:

See, here at Travel Dynamics International, we like to travel to places that have character. Duluth is a place with character. We love this city, and we think you will too. Come and have a look round – while it’s warm, that is.

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The thrill of victory! The agony of defeat! Those are just two reasons “Antiques Roadshow” has become a passion, a cult, a veritable lifestyle choice for PBS viewers, and we guarantee: just one hit and you’ll be hooked. (Next thing you know, you’ll be attacking your attic’s bric-a-brac for some hidden Meissen.) We are thrilled to announce that TDI has partnered with PBS broadcaster WGBH to indulge your twin loves of cruising and hidden treasures both in America and abroad.

Travel Dynamics International is the first cruise company to offer North America’s Antiques Roadshow enthusiasts an opportunity to discover the world’s—and their own—treasures together with experts from PBS’s most-watched series. Each voyage will be accompanied by the show’s Executive Producer, Marsha Bemko, and an expert appraiser, who will evaluate up to three items per passenger. (more…)

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