On November 10, 1975, an early winter storm with hurricane-force winds and extremely high waves sank the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, resulting in the deaths of all 29 crew members. The 48-year anniversary of the sinking is this Friday.
The lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot maintain Edmund Fitzgerald’s legacy in the public consciousness.
This is only one of Lightfoot’s many stirring lines from the 1976 Grammy-nominated classic song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The song, which was written just months after the enormous ore carrier disappeared from radar screens, honors the contentious and rather enigmatic sinking of the Fitzgerald. This event is more to most Midwesterners than merely a popular song.
The Fitz’s last cruise departed aboard November 9, 1975. Capt. Ernest McSorley, a 40-year veteran, set out from Superior, Wisconsin with a goal to carry 26,000 tons of taconite pellets to Zug Island in Detroit. When empty, the Fitz weighed 13,632 tons.
The SS Arthur M. Anderson, commanded by Bernie Cooper, trailed the Fitz by a short distance. Over their radios, McSorley and Cooper decided to head north across the vast Canadian shores of Lake Superior, anticipating the arrival of a major winter storm front.
It was not long before the storm made navigating Lake Superior extremely challenging. The Fitz’s deck started to disappear due to reduced visibility brought on by the snow and strong waves.