44 Years Ago, Do You Remember What Happened?


For many, today is a reminder of one of the greatest marine disasters in the Great Lakes. The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald was well on her way to Detroit, carrying a full load of 26,000 tonnes of iron ore en-route from Superior Wisconsin on November 9th.  The Fitzgerald was to pass through the American Sault Locks on November 11, 1975.  She never made it.

An Impressively strong storm that originated in the U.S. deep south was gaining strength as it made its way from Kansas to the Great Lakes.  In Sault Ste. Marie, it was warm, about 15c with a steady warm southerly wind. The wind continued to gain through out the day.

Weather forecasters were increasingly concerned how the low pressure system was deepening and getting stronger. Packing wind gusts in excess of 60 mph , it was classified as an inland hurricane.  At 5pm the National Weather Service issues a gale wind warning for Lake Superior.

The Fitzgerald, the biggest ship in the Great Lakes at 728 feet had company on Superior that day. Arthur M. Anderson, captained by Jesse Cooper,  proceeded east on a similar course, separated by about 10 to 20 miles.  Over the next several hours, the captain of the Fitzgerald , Ernest McSorley was in constant contact as the storm moved in creating 25 foot waves. Fitzgerald and Anderson agree to take a northern route across the lake for protection from the gale.

In the early afternoon of November 10th, 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 .

At 3:30pm  the Coast Guard issues directions for all ships to find safe anchorage because the Soo Locks have been closed.

Two hours later the Fitzgerald is advised by Swedish ship Avafors that the Whitefish Point beacon and light are disabled by power failure.

At 7:10pm The last contact made was to the Fitzgerald by Anderson, battling high sea and waves crashing against the ship of at least 25 feet.

at 7:15pm The Fitzgerald disappeared from Anderson radar.  An hour later , the U.S. Coast Guard begins a search for the missing Fitzgerald.

According to investigators, the Fitzgerald took on too much water and with a full load of iron ore, the wrath of a Lake Superior storm was too much. Snapping the ship in two, the Fitzgerald and its entire crew of 29 men perished.

with files from mlive.com


  1. The snow had drifted up against the door to our house and the neighbour had to dig us out. The wind had brought down a 40 ft cb tower we had running up the side of the chimney, also blocking the door.

Comments are closed.