LAKE SUPERIOR ~~~ November 9, 2021 ``dIt was 46 years ago today that the Edmund Fitzgerald was being loaded with 26,000 tons of iron ore, prepped for what would become her doomed final voyage.
Once the largest ship on the Great Lakes, the 729-foot Fitzgerald left Superior, Wis. at 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 9, 1975. Her crew planned to cross Lake Superior to deliver the load at Detroit's Zug Island.
But a day later, she was gone, broken in two and lying on the lake's bottom in 530 feet of water, all 29 souls aboard lost.
Gordon Lightfoot's poignant song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" helps keep alive the memory of what's become the Great Lakes' most famous shipwreck.
But her captain and crew were also sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. They hailed from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and beyond.
Here are the highlights of the Fitzgerald's final trip and the fierce, hurricane-like storm that sank her. Investigators would later say that in the big freighter's last hour, she battled sustained winds of 60 mph, and waves higher than 25 feet. She may have even encountered "The Three Sisters" - a trio of rapidly-hitting waves that are higher than the others around them. The Fitzgerald was in the "worst possible place" as she tried to make for the shelter of Michigan's Whitefish Bay.
NOV. 9, 1975
2:15 p.m. The Edmund Fitzgerald, captained by Ernest McSorley, finishes loading 26,116 tons of taconite in Superior, Wis., and departs for Detroit's Zug Island. The storm that would sink the ship is gathering force over Kansas on a northwest path toward Lake Superior.
5 p.m. Fitzgerald encounters Arthur M. Anderson, captained by Jesse Cooper, and the two ships proceed east on similar courses, separated by about 10 to 20 miles. Three hours later, the National Weather Service issues a Gale Warning for all of Lake Superior.
NOV. 10, 1975
1 a.m. Fitzgerald passes approximately 20 miles due south of Isle Royale.
2 a.m. Fitzgerald and Anderson agree to take northern route across the lake for protection from the gale. NWS upgrades forecast to a Storm Warning, predicting northeast winds 35 to 50 knots and waves 8 to 15 feet.
7 a.m. Fitzgerald calls company office to report a delayed arrival due to worsening weather conditions. Ship is approximately 35 miles north of Copper Harbor.
1 p.m. Fitzgerald is 11 miles NW of Michipicoten Island. Anderson is approximately 20 miles northwest of the island, reporting 20-knot winds and 12 foot waves.
1:40 p.m. Fitzgerald radios Anderson to talk weather and course changes. Capt. McSorley reports his ship is "rolling some." Fitzgerald cuts closer to Michipicoten Island while Anderson cuts west a bit to take rising seas from astern.
2:45 p.m. Anderson changes course to avoid Six Fathom Shoal area north of Caribou Island. Fitzgerald is about 16 miles ahead. Heavy snow begins to fall and the Fitzgerald is lost from sight. It's the last time the ship would be seen by human eyes.
3:20 p.m. Anderson records 43-knot winds and 12 to 16 foot waves.
3:30 p.m. Fitzgerald calls Anderson to report damage and say the ship would slow to let Anderson catch up. Minutes later, Coast Guard issues directions for all ships to find safe anchorage because the Soo Locks have been closed.
McSorley: "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have sustained some topside damage. I have a fence rail laid down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me til I get to Whitefish?"
Cooper: "Charlie on that Fitzgerald. Do you have your pumps going?"
McSorley: "Yes, both of them."
4:10 p.m. Fitzgerald radios Anderson to request navigational help.
4:30 p.m. Fitzgerald passes 3 to 5 miles east of Caribou Island. Many theorize the ship unknowingly struck the poorly marked 6 Fathom Shoal on the island's north side, but that has never been conclusively proven. The debate rages to this day.
4:39 p.m. NWS revises forecast again, predicting northwest winds 38 to 52 knots with gusts to 60 knots and waves 8 to 16 feet.
5:30 p.m. Fitzgerald is advised by Swedish ship Avafors the Whitefish Point beacon and light are disabled by power failure.
Avafors: "Fitzgerald, this is the Avafors. I have the Whitefish light now but still am receiving no beacon. Over."
Fitzgerald: "I'm very glad to hear it."
Avafors: "The wind is really howling down here. What are the conditions where you are?"
Fitzgerald: (Undiscernable shouts overheard) "DON'T LET NOBODY ON DECK!"
Avafors: "What's that, Fitzgerald? Unclear. Over."
Fitzgerald: "I have a bad list, lost both radars. And am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever been in."
Avafors: "If I'm correct, you have two radars."
Fitzgerald: "They're both gone."
6 p.m. Anderson struck by 25-foot wave.
7:10 p.m. Anderson calls Fitzgerald with navigation instructions. The ship is about 10 miles behind the doomed freighter.
Anderson: "Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?"
Fitzgerald: "Yes we have."
Anderson: "Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you."
Fitzgerald: "Well, am I going to clear?"
Anderson: "Yes. He is going to pass to the west of you."
Fitzgerald: "Well, fine."
Anderson: "By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problem?"
Fitzgerald: "We are holding our own."
Anderson: "Okay, fine. I'll be talking to you later."
7:15 p.m. Fitzgerald disappears from Anderson radar. More than an hour later, the Coast Guard begins an active search. The 29 crew members aboard all perish.
To the 29 lives lost on this day 46 years ago
Michael Armagost · Frederick Beetcher · Thomas Bentsen · Edward Bindon · Thomas Borgeson · Oliver Champeau ·Nolan Church · Ransom Cundy · Thomas Edwards · Russell Haskell · George Holl · Bruce Hudson · Allen Kalmon · Gordon MacLellan · Joseph Mazes · John McCarthy · Ernest McSorley · Eugene O'Brien · Karl Peckol · John Poviach · James Pratt · Robert Rafferty · Paul Riippa · John Simmons · William Spengler · Mark Thomas · Ralph Walton · David Weiss · Blaine Wilhelm