Drone photographers recount cliff collapse on Lake Superior

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MUNISING, MI – They were in the right place at the right time.

“You always dream of things like this happening,” said Jon Smithers, a photographer.

Smithers of St. Peter, Minnesota and Craig Blacklock of Moose Lake, Minnesota were in a pontoon boat on Lake Superior a quarter mile from shore with drones in the air.

“These cliffs are 200 feet high, covered in beautiful tapestry of colors,” Blacklock recalled. “Oranges, yellows and turquoises and it was late afternoon when the light is really good.

The pair were filming for an updated video version of Blacklock’s popular 2012 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Book.

What happened next no one could have been predicted.

Smithers recalls hearing a bang.

“As soon as I heard it, I said ‘Jon get it’,” Blacklock said.

“I turned the drone quickly and filmed it all crumbling down. It looked like it was hitting some kayakers,” Smithers said.

The group of kayakers narrowly escaped injury.

You can hear screaming in a video captured on cell phone by one of the kayakers.

Smithers and Blacklock could hear it 3 quarters of a mile a way.

“It was pretty intense,” Smithers said.

In the days since the cliff collapse, it’s been a whirldwind for the two men.

“We’ve had 48 hours of a hail storm of people contacting us all over the world. Spain, Netherlands all the news networks,” Smithers said.

Both men say the incredible video has the potential to keep kayakers from danger in the future.

“Now there are so many kayakers compared what there used to be,” Blacklock said.

“Kayakers need to be aware being close to the cliffs is dangerous.”

Blacklock is part owner of Water of Superior Art Gallery in Duluth’s Canal Park.

Kevin Jacobsen

Kevin Jacobsen

News Director
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