A Day of Infamy for Michigan Maritime

Some called her the Titanic of the Great Lakes. Some called her the Pride of the American Side. Others simply left it at Fitz.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was a beloved vessel, and on this day 41 years ago, her final voyage was cut short by the unrelenting and ruthless waters of Lake Superior.

edmund_fitzgerald_1971_3_of_4_restored
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

To this day, the exact science of how the ship sank is still hotly debated. Simulations have been created. Some researchers claim they are certain, but no one knows for sure. All we do know is that the unforgiving gales were at their most powerful on November 10th, 1975.

Captain Ernest McSorley and 28 other men were transporting iron ore from Superior, Wisconsin, to Detroit when the storm came upon them. A second ship, the SS Arthur M. Anderson, was trailing behind the Fitzgerald when she sank. The waves were reportedly topping 35 feet, with winds gauged at near-hurricane force.

“We are holding our own,” was the last communication McSorley radioed to the accompanying ship.

After the Anderson lost contact with the Fitzgerald, it continued toward Whitefish Bay, hoping that’s where the two ships would reconvene. That never happened.

Many researchers believe that had the Fitzgerald made it to Whitefish Bay, just 17 miles from where she sank, the ship may have been saved.

All 29 men aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald lost their lives on that fateful day. The news rang out across the country. This was undoubtedly a national tragedy. Headlines ran throughout every newspaper. Newsweek ran a featured story. And then came the famous Gordon Lightfoot song—to etch the Mighty Fitz’s place in history forever.

Once the largest ship on the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald remains the largest vessel ever to sink there.

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