Each year I write a few more words about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank on November 10, 1975. Some notes this year are pulled from my Twitter stream.
Headline: Ludington Daily News, Tuesday, November 11, 1975 via Google News. “Fear all 29 seamen lost / Huge ore carrier is missing on Superior”.
From the Downriver News-Herald, Michigan, news of a memorial service in River Rouge:
A shipwreck that has held the public’s fascination for nearly 40 years will be remembered once again at a memorial service from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Belanger Park (in River Rouge, Michigan).
The worst maritime disaster on the Great Lakes was the wreck of the SS Milwaukee, a train ferry that sank in 1929 in Lake Michigan off Milwaukee with the loss of all 52 men on board.
The Toronto based trio called the Sin-Tones have a 1:51 version of Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald ballad, done surf-rock style.
Former Milwaukee Brewers executive Edmund Bacon Fitzgerald, known as “Younger Ed” to distinguish him from his father, died in September 2013 at the age of 87. Fitzgerald helped bring baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 after the departure of the Braves; the ship was named after his father, an executive with Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. The Chicago Tribune writes:
On the 30th anniversary of the wreck in 2005, he recalled meeting Lightfoot at a dinner hosted by the Canadian prime minister in the 1980s. “I told him what my name was, and he looked rather surprised,” Fitzgerald said of the Canadian singer-songwriter. Fitzgerald called Lightfoot’s homage to the ship a “fine song.”
In some alternative universe, the Ella Fitzgerald was the sister ship to the Edmund Fitzgerald, and it had its own sad, sweet song.
(thanks to @netmeg for the heads up about this Google autocomplete)
(if ever a song needed to be sung this is it)
Whitefish Bay is a bay at the eastern end of Lake Superior.
On Weather Underground, the local weather for Whitefish Bay is LS 321.
Map from NOAA, showing how 15 miles could mean the different between heavy winds and relative calm.
The Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System has recent history, current conditions, and near term forecasts for wind, waves and temperatures across the Great Lakes. There's a windstorm coming which is predicted to create serious waves; look at the 24+ foot predictions on Lake Superior near where the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in 1975.
Cut and paste of a press release, with a few hyperlinks tossed in.
Great Ships of the Great Lakes at Lake Erie Metropark
Join nationally recognized lecturer, model maker and marine historian Keith Steffke for a fascinating look at some of the great ships that have plied and died on the Great Lakes at our special presentation “Great Ships of the Great Lakes,” on Sunday, November 22 at 2 p.m., at the Marshlands Museum and Nature Center of Lake Erie Metropark, in Brownstown.
Steffke will focus on the many ships that were made at the legendary Great Lakes Engineering Works – a River Rouge/Ecorse (Detroit River) shipyard that operated from 1902 to 1961. The Edmund Fitzgerald is perhaps the best known vessel produced at this facility, but there were many others. Each ship has a story to tell and Mr. Steffke will relate some of the more fascinating tales.
This November marks the 50th anniversary of the end of commercial shipbuilding in the Downriver area. The launching of the freighter "Arthur B. Homer" on November 7, 1959 spelled the end of 135 years of shipbuilding tradition on the Detroit River. Her builder, the Great Lakes Engineering Works, was founded in 1902 and finally ceased operations in 1961. This legendary shipbuilder was noted for the great variety and number of bulk freighters, tugs, car ferries and luxurious passenger ships they constructed at their River Rouge/Ecorse shipyard over the course of a half century. Steffke will deliver an entertaining program filled with anecdotes about this renowned builder of ships such as the ill-fated "Edmund Fitzgerald", among other famous vessels. Using unique prints, photographs, artifacts, and other rare archival items, Steffke documents the rise and fall of the last Downriver shipbuilder.
Travel back to a time when the rattle of the riveting gun and the tremendous splash of a launching hull could be heard along the Detroit River!
Fee: $2 per person. Pre-registration required. Please call 734-379-5020 for more information, or to register.
(write about the display in Paradise)
from the Sault Star:
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is getting to once
again ring the bell 29 times, during the 14th annual Edmund Fizgerald
The Edmund Fitzgerald, a 729-foot ore carrier, and her entire
crew of 29 men were lost on Lake Superior 34 years ago in one of the
worst storms in three decades.
The freighter lies north-northwest of Whitefish Point in 160 metres of water.
The service begins Tuesday at 7 p. m. at the Whitefish Point, Mich., museum.
Each year, in honour of the Fitgerald crew, the bell is
uncovered and rung 29 times during a 'Call to the Last Watch Ceremony.'
The 30th ring is for all mariners lost on the Great Lakes.
Music will be provided by Great Lakes balladeer Carl Behrend
and Michigan singer and songwriter Dan Hall. Guest speaker is William
Maki, watchman on the Arthur M. Anderson the night the Fitzgerald was
The shipwreck museum will be open from 10 am. to 3 p. m.
For more information, call 1- 800-635-1742.
The Sault Star Contact Details
Send all correspondence to:
The Sault Star
145 Old Garden River Rd
Sault Ste Marie, Canada P6A 5M5
November 10, 1975. I was 10, and I had a paper route delivering the Marquette MIning Journal, which means I was out delivering newspapers to the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse the day the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. Television news in those days was black and white, and there's a clip of Harry Reasoner that plays at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum from the news the next day that I must have seen two dozen times which brings me back. (sorry, no link, couldn't find it.)
There's lots too much to write about, but here's a few clips that are new to me this year.
(Bootleg) live Gordon Lightfoot singing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
boatnerd's summary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald
The Fitzgerald cleared Superior, Wisconsin, on her last trip on November 9, 1975, with a cargo of 26,116 tons of taconite pellets consigned to Detroit. Traveling down Lake Superior in company with ARTHUR M. ANDERSON of the United States Steel Corporation's Great Lakes Fleet, she encountered heavy weather and in the early evening of November 10th, suddenly foundered approximately 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay (47º North Latitude, 85º 7' West Longitude)
The storm that sunk the Fitz
from Steve Ackerman and John Knox at U of Wisconsin Meteorology
On November 9 at 7 p.m. the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a gale warning for Lake Superior. In a gale, the wind speeds range from 34-40 knots. The NWS predicted east to northeasterly winds during the night, shifting to NW to N by the afternoon of November 10. At approximately 10:40 p.m. the NWS revised its forecast for eastern Lake Superior to easterly winds becoming southeasterly the morning of the 10th. At about 2:00 am November 10 the NWS upgraded the gale warning to a storm warning (winds 48-55 knots) with a prediction of "northeast winds 35 to 50 knots becoming northwesterly 28 to 38 knots on Monday, waves 8 to 15 feet". Around 2 a.m. the Captains of the Anderson and Fitzgerald discussed the threatening weather and decided to change their route. This safer route would take them northward, toward the coast of Canada. The northern route would protect them from the waves that the storm generated.
The disasterous weather of November 6-11, 1913
The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 (wikipedia) destroyed 19 ships, damaged 19 others and killed more than 250 people. Tales of Riverside has an account of the storm and photos of all of the ships lost.