The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge in this undated photo from the 1960s. There are people (construction workers?) up on the Blatnik Bridge, so I’m thinking this may be from before it opened in 1961. The Fitzgerald was launched in 1958. So that would put the photo about 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)
Today, Nov. 10, is the 35th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship left Superior on Nov. 9, 1975, with a load of taconite, bound for Detroit.
It ran into a massive storm out on Lake Superior. Its last radio contact was with the freighter Arthur M. Anderson on the evening of Nov. 10; soon after the Fitzgerald disappeared from radar near the entrance to Whitefish Bay at the eastern end of the lake. The crew of 29, including several from and with families in the Northland, were lost in the wreck.
I won’t get into further details, because the wreck has been exhaustively chronicled in countless books and websites. You can find more information here, here, here, and here. I also found this YouTube video posted by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society which contains clips of radio transmissions between the Arthur M. Anderson and the Coast Guard after the Fitzgerald was reported missing:
The Arthur M. Anderson continues to sail the Great Lakes, and makes frequent stops in Duluth. Seeing it go through the Duluth Ship Canal, knowing it was the last ship to be in contact with the Edmund Fitzgerald – it’s a link to what has become a legend.
This evening, the Split Rock Lighthouse beacon will be lit in an annual commemoration of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald; a ship’s bell will be tolled 29 times as the names of the Fitzgerald’s crew are read, and once more for all shipwreck victims. I attended the ceremony in 2006; it’s well worth the trip if you’re able to go.
Here are more photos of the Fitzgerald, and relating to the wreck, from the News Tribune archives:
Lettering from the stern of the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald; the stern portion of the ship, which broke into two sections when it sank, is upside-down on the floor of Lake Superior. This is one of a series of Coast Guard photos in the News Tribune files; I think it’s from the initial exploration of the wreck by an unmanned U.S. Navy submersible, controlled from the deck of the Duluth-based Coast Guard buoy tender Woodrush, in spring 1976. (News-Tribune files)
Bent metal around the pilot house of the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald shows the violence of the wreck event. The bow of the freighter landed upright on bed of Lake Superior. Like the photo above, the image apparently is from initial exploration of the wreck by the Coast Guard in spring 1976. (News-Tribune files)
The name of the Edmund Fitzgerald on the bow portion of the wreck becomes visible under the bright lights of the submarine Clelia during a dive on July 3, 1994. (Associated Press / News-Tribune files)
Split Rock Lighthouse guide Alec Bildeaux Jr. (left) rings a bell once for each of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s crew as site technician Matt Miller reads the names at a ceremony on Nov. 10, 2000, the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
Addition (Nov. 10, 7:30 a.m.): I realized after posting this that I had left out one important part of the Edmund Fitzgerald tale – singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which played a significant role in establishing the wreck’s permanent place in Great Lakes lore. Here is a well-done YouTube video featuring the song as well as lots of archival photos and video clips of the ship, and a tribute to the crew: