Great Lakes ShipWrecks

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The Great Lakes are an extraordinary place for shipwreck aficionados and scuba divers alike. These 200 year-old wrecks are in virtually pristine condition due to the cold, fresh water.

The FT Barney, sunk in Lake Huron, 1868. (photo Tane Casserley)

 

One of the most recent and tragic shipwrecks of the Great Lakes is the Esmund Fitzgerald.  The Fitz, as the massive ore ship was known, sunk in Whitefish Bay during a terrible storm on November 10, 1975.

Carrying a full cargo of Taconite ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, the Edmund Fitzgerald embarked on her final voyage from Superior, Wisconsin (near Duluth), on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. En route to a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan, she joined a second freighter, the SS Arthur M. Anderson. By the next day the two ships were caught in the midst of a massive winter storm on Lake Superior, with near hurricane force winds and waves up to 35 feet (11 m) high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m. the Fitzgerald suddenly sank in Canadian waters 530 feet (160 m) deep, approximately 17 miles (15 nautical miles; 27 kilometers) from the entrance to Whitefish Bay near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Although the Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank. Her crew of 29 all perished, and no bodies were recovered.

The Edmund Fitzgerald

 

One of the life boats from the Fitz. The damage to the boat speaks to the trauma of the event.

 

The path and ultimate demise of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

 

Path of the Edmund Fitzgerald and The Anderson.

 

The Edmund Fitzgerald in its final resting place. The stern lays across from it, upside down.

 

One of the reasons for the enduring tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald is the song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot.  The following video combines footage of the ship and the actual marine communications with the Anderson on that terrible night in November.

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