Edmund Fitzgerald 40th Anniversary of Sinking on Lake Superior

SS Edmund Fitzgerald
SS Edmund Fitzgerald

SS Edmund Fitzgerald
SS Edmund Fitzgerald

THUNDER BAY – It is the fortieth anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald this year. November on Lake Superior can be a month of storms. In recent memory, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is perhaps the most famous sinking of a ship on Lake Superior. The tragedy has lived on in song from Gordon Lightfoot a Canadian singer.

Memories of the famous ship are many.

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a Great Lakes freighter that sunk during a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975. The entire crew of twenty-nine mariners were lost.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

When the Edmund Fitzgeral was launched on June 8, 1958, the freighter was the largest ship on the Great Lakes. The “Fitz” remains the largest ship to have sunk on Lake Superior.

Lake Superior is a massive water body, storms on the lake can generate ocean-sized waves. However unlike an ocean, when a massive storm hits Superior, there really isn’t anywhere for a ship to go in order to get out of the way of a major storm. Back in the early days of shipping on the Great Lakes, the ship captain would make all of the decisions on when a ship would sail, or not.

Weather alerts, and weather warnings were often ignored.

The website ‘Boatnerd’ stated, “The Fitzgerald cleared Superior, Wisconsin, on her last trip on November 9, 1975, with a cargo of 26,116 tons of taconite pellets consigned to Detroit. Traveling down Lake Superior in company with ARTHUR M. ANDERSON of the United States Steel Corporation’s Great Lakes Fleet, she encountered heavy weather and in the early evening of November 10th, suddenly foundered approximately 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay (47º North Latitude, 85º 7′ West Longitude)

“Captain McSorley of the ‘FITZ’ had indicated he was having difficulty and was taking on water. She was listing to port and had two of three ballast pumps working. She had lost her radar and damage was noted to ballast tank vent pipes and he was overheard on the radio saying, ‘don’t allow nobody (sic) on deck’ “.

McSorley said it was the worst storm he had ever seen.

All 29 officers and crew, including a Great Lakes Maritime Academy cadet, went down with the ship, which lies broken in two sections in 530 feet of water”.

The November storm that resulted in the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking reported winds as fast as 45 knots and waves as high as thirty feet.

During a late season inspection on the Fitz, it is reported that some of the water-tight hatches were not sealing properly, and that may have contributed to the sinking of the ship.

While the famous Gordon Lightfoot song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” has taken the sinking of this massive ship into history.

Twenty-nine brave men lost their lives on November 10, 1975. Their names, ages, occupations, and hometowns are listed below. Source: www.ssefo.com – a website dedicated to remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the lost crew members.

Name Age Occupation On Board Hometown
Michael E. Armagost 37 Third Mate Iron River, Wisconsin
Frederick J. Beetcher 56 Porter Superior, Wisconsin
Thomas D. Bentsen 23 Oiler St. Joseph, Michigan
Edward F. Bindon 47 First Assistant Engineer Fairport Harbor, Ohio
Thomas D. Borgeson 41 Maintenance Man Duluth, Minnesota
Oliver J. Champeau 41 Third Assistant Engineer Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Nolan S. Church 55 Porter Silver Bay, Minnesota
Ransom E. Cundy 53 Watchman Superior, Wisconsin
Thomas E. Edwards 50 Second Assistant Engineer Oregon, Ohio
Russell G. Haskell 40 Second Assistant Engineer Millbury, Ohio
George J. Holl 60 Chief Engineer Cabot, Pennsylvania
Bruce L. Hudson 22 Deck Hand North Olmsted Ohio
Allen G. Kalmon 43 Second Cook Washburn, Wisconsin
Gordon F. MacLellan 30 Wiper Clearwater, Florida
Joseph W. Mazes 59 Special Maintenance Man Ashland, Wisconsin
John H. McCarthy 62 First Mate Bay Village, Ohio
Ernest M. McSorley 63 Captain Toledo, Ohio
Eugene W. O’Brien 50 Wheelsman Toledo, Ohio
Karl A. Peckol 20 Watchman Ashtabula, Ohio
John J. Poviach 59 Wheelsman Bradenton, Florida
James A. Pratt 44 Second Mate Lakewood, Ohio
Robert C. Rafferty 62 Steward Toledo, Ohio
Paul M. Riippa 22 Deck Hand Ashtabula, Ohio
John D. Simmons 63 Wheelsman Ashland, Wisconsin
William J. Spengler 59 Watchman Toledo, Ohio
Mark A. Thomas 21 Deck Hand Richmond Heights, Ohio
Ralph G. Walton 58 Oiler Fremont, Ohio
David E. Weiss 22 Cadet Agoura, California
Blaine H. Wilhelm 52 Oiler Moquah, Wisconsin

Sandy Smith shares, “I remember this day as if it was yesterday.To those that live in Superior Wi. the “Fitz.” will always be in our hearts.The Fitz loaded her cargo of iron ore at elevator #1 in Superior and set off on her fatefull journey.This song will always bring tears to my eyes in rememberance of the sailors lost on the 10th of Nov.1975. Today the winds are gusting and it is storming over the Lake, just like it started Nov 10, 1975, coincidence or the Lake’s way af saying she remembers too. Rest in Peace.”

Crew Member Body Found on Edmund Fitzgerald