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Photos: Lake Superior's annual ice-breaking ritual

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The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder breaks ice to create navigation lanes.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alder breaks ice and creates navigation lanes for the opening of the maritime shipping season on Friday in the Duluth-Superior harbor, "taking all the bigger pieces of ice that we find, making them a little bit smaller, and just grooming a path, just like your cross country ski path," said Lt. Daniel Kubasch, the executive officer onboard.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Springtime in Duluth isn't signaled by birds or butterflies or flowers. 

Duluthians know it's spring when the Coast Guard icebreakers arrive, announcing the start of another Great Lakes shipping season.  

Last week, two cutters carved a track from the Soo Locks on the eastern edge of Lake Superior all the way to Duluth. The Mackinaw then cut a path up the North Shore, breaking open paths in the ice and clearing the way for thousand-foot freighters to carry their first cargo of iron ore, coal and grain. 

But the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alder stayed behind to break up the ice in the Duluth-Superior harbor.