Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

By mariner's terms, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald had an inauspicious start. During its launch, it took three swings of the champagne bottle to finally break over the bow to christen the ship. After 36-minutes of trying to free the ship from its keel blocks, it was launched sideways and suddenly crashed back into the docks violently and a spectator suffered a heart attack. In the next seventeen years, it would lose its original anchor, run aground, collide with another ship, and crash into the wall of a lock three times. Though it hardly was a charmed life, the worst was yet to come.

On November 9, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald departed port at Superior, Wisconsin and into the waters of Lake Superior with a full-load of ore meant for nearby Zug Island. In Great Lakes yore, the weather conditions on the five main lakes can be unpredictable and very deadly - specifically in the month of November. It is so bad that the local sailors have dubbed the winds that pummel the ships the cryptic name of the Witch of November. The weather conditions were hardly favorable the first day of the Fitzgerald's voyage, but took a bad turn the next day.

At 3:30 P.M. on November 10, Fitzgerald Captain Ernest M. McSorley reported that the ship had lost its radar and had a minor list developing. The snow falling was causing whiteout conditions and the Coast Guard issued a warning for all ships to find safe harbor. The freighter, Arthur M. Anderson, was not far behind and issued a warning to the Fitzgerald at 7:10 P.M. that they had been struck by rogue waves big enough to be detected by radar that were heading the Fitzgerald's way. Asked how they were doing, McSorley responded, "We are holding our own." That was the last the ship and the 29 lives onboard were ever heard from again.

The Great Lakes lie in what has been dubbed "The Great Lakes Triangle," for the amount of ships and planes that have vanished in its waters. Surprisingly there are more disappearances per unit area than the infamous Bermuda Triangle, despite the fact that the area is 16 times smaller. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald is perhaps the best-known shipwreck on the Great Lakes. The wreck was located fairly quickly unlike some of the others, but theories still abound as to what caused its sinking (some even including UFOs). In addition, the Fitzgerald has been immortalized in popular culture over the years - most notably in Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Visit the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Dark Destinations.

-Casey H.

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