The Suitcase Lady


July 30, 2019, 11:05 pm


Image from

Lakes are fluid in more than the literal sense. They change size and even disappear. Any list comparing the size of the world’s largest lakes will change…even in the short span of a few decades.

This is how I have come to live on the shores of the world’s fifth-largest freshwater lake as measured by surface area. When we purchased our lake lot 40 years ago, Lake Michigan was only in sixth place. To be blunt but factual, the Soviet Union destroyed the vast Aral Sea, thus moving Lake Michigan up the list.

Before the 1950’s the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest lake. By 1997, it had shrunk to 10% of its original size and split into four lakes. By 2014, the eastern basin had completely dried up.

The destruction began when Soviet engineers began diverting the two mountain rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, that fed the lake with snowmelt. The goal was to grow cotton in the desert. The cotton bloomed, but the Aral Sea fishing economy collapsed. Coastal towns found themselves high, dry, covered in blowing salty dust and suffering from hotter summers and colder winters.

The uptake here appears to be, “Never underestimated the ability of people to destroy the environment.”

Our Lake Michigan level is at record highs this year. Our beach has disappeared and half of our stairs have been claimed by the waves, but we are not complaining. We’ve got water.

1 Comment for this entry

  • eve robillard

    Mary & Russ–Most interesting. And it may be naïve of me but sometimes I wonder if even dams (those made by humans) are destructive? I certainly could be wrong.