Edmund Fitzgerald Goes Down November 10, 1975
It inspired a song, it was the pride of the Twin Ports. It was the largest freshwater ship to sail Lake Superior, now the folklore captures the world's imagination.
First, I want to say I'm sorry to the families that lost fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, and uncles on the voyage. It must be hard to hear the song and story every year about this time and have to deal with the grief over and over.
Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about the ship. Dave Strandberg of the former WAKX in Duluth was the first one to play the song. He is Canadian so he was close to the sinking and knew the power of the lake. He also once worked at the shipwards. I had seen this on a talk show I watched when the song became popular.
The ssedundfitzgerald.org says it was 729 feet long, which I remember was the longest ship on Lake Superior. It was christened in 1958. The Fitz left the Duluth port during a storm with the Arthur M. Anderson right behind it. The Anderson would play a key role later in the story.
The website goes on to say the Fitzgerald kept communication with the Arthur M. Anderson, saying they might have taken a little water. There are stories that there is the "Three Sisters Wave" that might have hit the boat and wounded it enough to take on water. This story is pure folklore. There is a legend of three waves that renders ships on the Lake handicapped and eventually lose to the water and sink.
Another theory is that Fitz may have run aground on a sandbar that started the leaking and eventually pulling the huge ship under. The Edmund Fitzgerald website says Captain McSorely was one of the most experienced captains on the fleet and when radioing to the Anderson he said "We are holding our own".
According to the Discovery Channel presentation below, the water pumps were broken, so as the Edmund Fitzgerald took on water, it couldn't get rid of the water fast enough. The water smashed the lifeboats and kept pounding the ship when it finally took out the radar. The Fitzgerald wires the Anderson to find out where they are.
The video goes on to say once the Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared from the radar. The Anderson wired the Coast Gaurd, and they don't have any ships to search. Arthur M Anderson is asked to join in the search. They became the lead ship, and once they found the broken lifeboats and life preservers, they turned around and went in to dock and get out of the storm.
Expeditions have gone down and retrieved the ship's bell and replaced it with one that has all 29 sailors' names on it, marking it as a grave for the ship and all its men.