On This Date in History: On this date in 1975, Gordon Lightfoot got the inspiration for a song and 29 families got news that they never wanted to hear. The Edmund Fitzgerald sunk about 17 miles from Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior. Here is a history of the Edmund Fitzgerald from the Detroit News and here is the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald from the NOAA office in Marquette Michigan. The ship was a huge iron ore carrier, some 729 feet long. It was carrying ore when it ran into a big storm in extreme weather conditions. The ship and the one it was traveling with, the Arthur M. Anderson tried to steer for the safety of Whitefish Bay to get out of the 60 mile per hour winds and 10-20 foot waves. The Fitzgerald lost its radar and the Whitefish Point radio beacon was knocked out. The Anderson was behind the Fitzgerald and maintained contact with the ship. Fitz captain Ernest McSorely reported in his last message that he had two damanged vents and that the ship was listing. When asked how he was handling his problem, McSorely responded, “we’re holding our own.” Shortly thereafter, the ship vanished from the Anderson’s radar screen. No one knows what happened. The Anderson reached port and was asked to go back out and look for the Fitzgerald. In a display of great courage, the Anderson went back into the storm to look but found nothing. This is a fantastic video tribute to the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It has news footage, radio reports from the ships, footage of the Edmund Fitzgerald and photographs of the crew to the music of Gordon Lightfoot.
It took some time to locate the wreck but it was found in two pieces in 530 feet of water. On July 4, 1995 the bell was recovered and replaced by a replica with the names of the 29 men who went down with the ship. It is now forbidden to dive on the wreck. The investigation into the incident concluded that the hatches weren’t secured properly and that the ship took on water to the point that when a wave crashed into it, it simply went down. But, skeptics say that there would have been time for a distress call. McSorely had been in contact with the Anderson and never reported any water being taken on, though something caused the list.
In the wreck, the chains that made up the deck railing were broken, indicating perhaps that there was tremendous stretching going on. Speculation is that a rogue wave came along….its one that comes out of nowhere and is many times larger than other waves. Either that wave picked up the ship and drove it nose down into the water or, the ship became perched above two wave peaks and the trof in between caused the ship to split in two and sink immediately. Another theory which is accepted by many mariners is that the ship scraped bottom at Caribou Island Shoal and that is why McSorely reported that the ship was listing. The answer will never be known. But, it does show that, even with modern techonology and modern equipment, nature has the final say.
Weather Bottom Line: After a cloudy Tuesday with perhaps a light, brief shower with the frontal passage, look for plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures through Saturday. Lows in low to mid 40’s, highs in low to mid 60’s. Upper 60’s on Saturday. Sunday, clouds return with the approach of another system. The outflow from Ida is probably responsible for the suppression of shower activity with the current front moving through the area.