The Northwoods is full of enthralling landscapes. Many people come to see the beautiful mixed hardwood forests and the sparkling blue lakes. Somewhere in between the forests and the lakes you will find a wetland referred to as a bog. Bogs are differentiated from other wetland ecosystems based on their unique plant community. When the last of the glaciers receded from the Midwest roughly 10,000 years ago mats of sphagnum moss, leatherleaf, and numerous other specialized plants began to establish themselves in kettle lakes. Over time a kettle lake can become completely filled in by the bog mat. In millions of years, these compacted layers of organic material (also called peat) could become coal deposits.
Storytelling on a crisp October night is just too good to pass up, so this past weekend science teacher Leanna Jackan led a late night candlelight hike. On the hike, students got the opportunity to sit quietly on the bog edge at night. They also got to hear some folktales and scientific explanations for a bog enigma called the Will-O-the-Wisp and to read a National Geographic article about the bog bodies of Iron Age Europe.
The peatlands of Northern Europe were host to a mysterious white (or sometimes blue) glowing orb that would float over the bog mat. In the past, seeing the Will-O-the-Wisp seemed to be a common occurrence. People claimed that the Wisp would lead unwary travelers off safe paths and to their watery doom in the bog. The Wisp’s existence has been confirmed by naturalists of the time however whether it is responsible for leading people astray in the bog is questionable.
Bog bodies are another well documented European bog phenomenon. While it’s up for debate how the bodies came to be deposited in the bog, the processes by which the bog preserves these bodies are pretty well known. The bog’s anaerobic environment is not very conducive to decomposition, so bodies are preserved. The majority of the bog bodies found in Northern Europe are somewhere around 2,000 years old.