Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Edmund Fitzgerald Sinking--40th Anniversary

November 10, 2015, marks forty years since all twenty-nine crew members went down with their ship--the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. The largest of the Great Lakes ore freighters at the time of her sinking, she was dubbed "The Queen of the Great Lakes." The ship was 729 feet long, 39 feet high, and 75 feet wide.

The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was loaded in Superior, Wisconsin with 26,000 tons of taconite (iron pellets) headed for the ore docks of Zug Island--just south of Detroit. Winds over 45 knots (50 mph) and waves over 30 feet caused the ship to roll heavily. The captain made a call to another ore freighter saying they had taken on some water but were holding their own. That was just before the ship went off U.S. Coast Guard radar. The pride of the Great Lakes broke in two and sank 530 feet into Lake Superior's Canadian waters--only seventeen miles from protected Whitefish Bay.

Since the submerged giant sank on November 10, 1975, there have been three underwater expeditions--in 1989, 1994, and 1995. At the request of the families who lost their loved ones, the Canadian government recovered the 200 pound brass bell from the deck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald on July 4, 1995, and presented it to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.

Today, the bell is displayed at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, Michigan. Every November 10th at 7:10 PM, the bell is tolled twenty-nine times to honor the Fitzgerald's crew and a thirtieth time to commemorate the estimated 30,000 people and 6,000 ships lost in the Great Lakes.

Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald with documentary footage: https://youtu.be/hgI8bta-7aw