Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

This is the thirtieth anniversary of the sinking of the ore boat Edmund Fitzgerald. She sank in an early winter storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Twenty-nine lives were lost “when the gales of November came early,” and were it not for the song by Gordon Lightfoot, I doubt many people would remember the ship or the crew.

Having grown up around the Great Lakes, ore boats — large, low, and slow ships that carried iron ore from the upper lakes to the steelmills in Detroit or Gary, Indiana — were a common sight in the ports or out on the water. They are big enough to handle rough seas, which are common this time of year on the lakes, but that storm apparently caught the Edmund Fitzgerald by surprise, and a ship like that fully laden is truly “a bone to be chewed.” The ship was snapped in half and sank within a few minutes without being able to send out a distress call.

I was living in Minneapolis at the time and the loss of the ship struck hard in northern Minnesota where the ship was a frequent visitor, and in my home town of Perrysburg, Ohio, which was home to several of the crew members.

May she and all who sailed her rest in peace.