The haunting song The Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot, is born of sorrow and tragedy.
The Edmund Fitzgerald
June 1957 to November 1975
The large cargo vessels that roamed the five Great Lakes were known as lakers, and the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was, at the time, the biggest ever built. Weighing more than 13,000 tons without cargo, it was christened on June 8, 1958, and made its first voyage on September 24 the same year.
According to Michael Schumacher’s The Mighty Fitz, with the commissioning of the Fitzgerald, Northwestern Mutual became the first American insurance company to build its own ship—at a cost of $8.4 million.
It was named after the head of the company, and the ship's main job was hauling iron ore.
Its impressive size made the ship popular with boat-watchers, and
over the years it garnered many nicknames, including “The Queen of the Great Lakes,” and “The Toledo Express,”
Crowds would watch as the massive freighter moved through the
locks at Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The “Soo” Locks, which connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron, allowed the Fitz to reach ports on the lower Great Lakes
November is a brutal month on the Great Lakes with frequent storms and hurricane-force winds. On November 9, the Fitz was loaded up at the Burlington Northern Railroad Dock in Superior, Wisconsin with 26,116 tons of iron ore pellets It left at 2:30 p.m. A second ship, the Arthur M. Anderson, sailed 10-15 miles behind the Fitzgerald as a precaution, and the two ships remained in radio contact until just after 7 p.m. on November 10.
As swells reached 35 feet and winds raged at nearly 100 mph, the ship contacted Coast Guard officials in Sault Ste. Marie and said they were taking on water. Later, a blizzard obscured the Fitz on the Anderson’s radar.
At 7:10 p.m., Captain Ernest McSorley assured a crew member of the Anderson “We are holding our own.” It was the last anyone heard from the Fitzgerald or Captain McSorley, who was on his final voyage before retirement,
ship was approximately 15 miles north of Whitefish Point
when it seemingly
vanished with nothing on radar, and no radio contact. Captain Cooper, on the
Anderson, was in contact with the Coast Guard and made it to Whitefish Point
sometime after 8 p.m.. Captain Cooper bravely turned the
Anderson back into the storm to search for the ship, but found
only a pair of lifeboats and debris.
The Captain and all 28 crew members died. Most crew members were from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota. There is still no definitive explanation for the ship sinking. With help from the Canadian Navy, the National Geographic Society, Sony, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians—The ship's bell was retrieved.
Their is an annual Edmund Fitzgerald memorial ceremony at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. The recovered and restored bell tolls 29 times for each member of the Fitzgerald's crew, and a 30th for the estimated 30,000 mariners lost on the Great
Go here for interview with the brave Captain who tried to help. Through the eyes of Captain Cooper
Go here for more info
Thanks to mentalfloss.com for several bits of info.