I am reposting this blog from a few years ago as today is the anniversary of an epic disaster and a storm rarely unrivaled in the Great Lakes.
As a child of Michigan growing up in the 70s, this ballad not only resonated with me through my love of music but also sparked within me my first interests of weather.
Of course these words were made famous by the Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot in his ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”
On a balmy November day, in 1975, the “unsinkable” 729 foot freighter was docked at Superior, Wisconsin loading up taconite and headed for the lower lakes. As any laker or captain will tell you, November is the worst month to sail the lakes as the “witches of November” begin to stir their cauldrons. Ship owners try to get in a couple last runs before the Great Lake ice sets-in to maximize profits.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald set sail on the 9th and never made it out of Superior. To this day there is great controversy as to her final cause of peril. Faulty hatch-covers, shoaling in shallow water – as she followed an unorthodox path to avoid high waves, and finally the “three sisters” theory – a theory that 3 monster waves sank the mighty Fitz. The only thing we know for sure is that Captain Ernest McSorely was in communication just minutes before she disappeared from radar with the SS Arthur Anderson. McSorely’s final words…
“We’re holding our own”
The Coast Guard’s official report concluded that ineffective hatch closures were the primary reason for the Fitz demise – but this was a controversial finding. The ship was discovered the following year at the bottom of the lake in two large pieces. All 29 men died in the wreck.
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