On this date, November 10th, 1975, The Edmund Fitzgerald, an American Great Lakes Freighter, was lost in a storm on Lake Superior with 29 souls aboard.
The "Fitz" was loaded with 26 thousand tons of taconite pellets, loaded in Superior, WI, and bound down lake for the steel mills of the east. When she left the Superior harbor, the weather was mild, though a storm was brewing on the plains that swept toward the Lake. It was dubbed a 'typical November storm.'
November is the stormiest, most dangerous month for ships on Lake Superior, and the Nov. 10th, 1975 storm blew up stronger than anticipated. The Edmund Fitzgerald was in contact with another ore boat, the Arthur M. Anderson, who trailed 10-15 miles behind the Fitz as they crossed the lake.
Buffeted by winds and tossed by huge waves, the captain of the Anderson witnessed the Fitz passing what he considered way too close to a known shoal. By afternoon on the 10th, the Fitz was reporting some damage, a listing boat, and both pumps working hard.
The storm increased in fury, with winds of 58 gusting to 70 knots and 18-25 foot waves. A massive, 'super-wave' hit the Anderson, tossing the boat like a cork, and rushing down lake toward the Fitzgerald.
The radar operator on the Anderson kept in communication with the Fitzgerald, monitoring her position relative to other ships on the lake. At just after 7 pm, the last communication from the Fitzgerald came over the radio.
"We're holding our own."
Five minutes later, the radar signal lost the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Though a search and rescue attempt was launched, the vessel and all lives aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald were lost. Many theories arose as to why the mighty ship disappeared beneath the surface, including hull damage from shoaling, overloading, faulty hatch covers, and more, but though the shipwreck has been found and examined by experts, nothing definitive has arisen.
The Fitzgerald now lies, broken in two on the floor of Lake Superior, her aft section upside down, her cargo of taconite spread over acres of lake bed. At the request of the families of those lost, a moratorium has been placed on diving the wreck. The Fitz will keep her secrets forever more.
The families requested the ship's bell be salvaged. On July 4th, 1995, the last dive on the Fitz recovered the bell, which has been restored and now stands as a memorial to their loved ones at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, MI.
To commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, every year on November, 10th at Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior, all the names of the crew are read out as a ship's bell tolls, and then the lighthouse is lit for the only time in the year.
The Crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald
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