The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, one of the most renowned shipwrecks in the history of America, sank on 10 November 1975 in Lake Superior.
Video Credits: John Horrigan
The vessel was immortalised by Gordon Lightfoot’s folk song, released in 1976, months after the ship sank. The 6-minute song detailed the ship’s final moments.
The freighter went down amidst strong winds and giant waves that killed all 29 people on the vessel.
Attempt to retrieve its bell led to the acquisition of video footage of the ship’s wreck as it lay at the depths of Lake Superior.
Edmund Fitzgerald was named after the President and Chairman of the Board of Northwestern Mutual and was the biggest ship on the Great Lakes at that time. The freighter was said to be the biggest bulk carrier in the entire region.
Launched in 1958, it remained the biggest ship on the Great Lakes till 1971. It was 729 ft and weighed about 13,632 gross tons.
The freighter went between Silver Bay, Minnesota, and lower lakes in the Detroit and Toledo regions.
On 9 November 1975, the freighter left from Superior, Wisconsin, at 2:30 pm, loaded with over 25,000 tonnes of taconite pellets. It was headed to Zug Island, Detroit.
When the ship began its journey, the weather was not favourable. Hence, Captain Ernest M. McSorley took the northerly route across Lake Superior. He thought the Canadian shore would shelter the vessel from powerful winds. However, the weather worsened the next day, with wind speeds reaching 50 knots and waves reaching 16ft.
The captain reported damage at 3:30 pm on 10 November, stating vents were damaged. He also contacted Captain Bernie Cooper of the vessel Arthur M. Anderson, which had left Two Harbors, Minnesota, on 9 November and was in contact with the Fitzgerald through radio.
Anderson’s crew closely watched the radar to track Fitzgerald’s path. However, the bad weather made it difficult for them. It was around 7:10 pm that Anderson was contacted by Fitzgerald for the last time, after which the latter just vanished from the radar 5 minutes later.
All 29 men died, and Anderson later found 2 of Fitzgerald’s lifeboats in the water. Days after the storm, the Coast Guard looked for the missing vessel and found a wreckage; however, it was not of Fitzgerald.
The following year, authorities confirmed that they found the ship’s stern 535 ft below the lake’s surface, stating that Fitzgerald was at the worst place at the worst time.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum holds an annual memorial service every November to honour the lives lost when this mighty freighter sank in Lake Superior.
References: Insider, Yahoo news