by Ned Kahn
A four-foot clear bowl partly filled with water is whipped into a ferocious froth by an overhead fan. Visitors can control the speed of a fan, simulating varying wind velocity to create wave effects, both gentle and stormy. The clear, elevated bowl allows visitors to see what goes on beneath the water’s surface during these times of chaotic - or serene - activity.
Lake Michigan is essentially a basin, like a large bowl, only much more irregular in shape and with more variation in depth. Water waves are created by wind action on the surface of water. If the wind blows hard and for a sustained time, the waves are bigger and more erratic. Lake Michigan storms can create huge troughs between very large, steeply pitched waves, posing a hazard for ships. In a basin as big as Lake Michigan, winds can also swirl around from different directions, creating a situation in which waves can travel toward one another. No boater would want to be caught between two crashing waves!
Gravity and wave action can dramatically effect changes along the Great Lakes shoreline. Bluffs composed of sand and/or soil can erode, homes can disappear, and beaches can change shape and size.