CleanTech Academy: Day 5 – Detroit River Boat Tour

The Deans List - A Blog by CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Intern Marcus Deans on the Boat Tour

Saturday, July 8th – Detroit River Boat TourBoat Tour Picutres

Today we went on an incredible boat tour of the Detroit River and had a unique opportunity to see both banks of the river up close. We launched from Festival Plaza, and quickly sped away from downtown Detroit and Windsor, headed downriver. The tall buildings and towers of Detroit quickly receded into single storey buildings and plazas as we left the core. On Detroit’s bank, we saw the first big change – from commercial and residential buildings into industrial. Piers for bulk cargo and construction aggregate appeared. As we moved closer to the northern bank of the river, we started to see the black, heavily industrialized landscape that is Zug Island.

Zug Island

Our boat sailed just 300m from the massive U.S. Steel plant, directly past the huge blast furnaces and docks. As we moved past, the air became noxious with sulphur and smelled absolutely awful. It is almost incomprehensible that such heavy industry is located near four million people. The plant pumps out all kinds of substances from lead to smoke to heavy chemicals. Zug Island is even responsible for the mysterious hum we can hear from the Canadian side!We Were able to view Fighting Island during the Boat Tour

Fighting Island

Going downriver past Zug Island, and towards Fighting Island, relieved everyone. Even though today Fighting Island is beautiful and full of greenery, hosting ecological tours, it has a chequered history. In the past, chemical companies used Fighting Island as a dumping ground for sodium carbonate, lye, and baking soda! The island was incredibly polluted due to the lack of oversight from authorities at the time, and the disregard for the environment that remained common until the mid 20th century. Eventually, BASF, another chemical company, bought the island. They rehabilitated the entire island so that now it is one of the premier ecological sites in the area.

Homeward Journey

As we moved further down the river, we heard more from the guides about the wildlife on the banks. They also talked about some of the different wildlife within the river,  and we glimpsed several different bird species. The ride back upriver along the Canadian bank was much more relaxing, with the industry of Detroit being replaced with the residential, agricultural, and parkland areas of Windsor & Lasalle. Overall, the boat tour was a very relaxing yet informative tour down the river and offered a unique perspective that we cannot normally experience!

Find out what else made the Deans List in Marcus’ daily CleanTech Academy recaps:

DAY 1  DAY 2  DAY 3   DAY 4   DAY 5   DAY 6

Marcus Deans currently attends Académie Ste Cécile International School in Windsor and is looking forward to learning more about the technology and business world as part of WEtech Alliance. Outside of school, Marcus volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society, the WindsorEssex Community Foundation, and the City of Windsor. He has also served in several leadership positions at youth-run companies as part of Junior Achievement. Marcus also enjoys science and has ranked internationally in youth science competitions as part of Team Canada.

He’ll be with us throughout the summer and will be reporting on his experience in our inaugural CleanTech Academy class through his CleanTech Blog posts.