The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, 1975

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:

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Twin Ports with the tug Arkansas, circa early 1960s. (News-Tribune file photo)

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An undated file photo of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (AP / News-Tribune files)

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The Edmund Fitzgerald on the St. Mary’s River near Sault Ste. Marie, May 1975. (Bob Campbell photo / News-Tribune files)

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The Edmund Fitzgerald on the Detroit River, date unknown. (Burt Emanulle / AP / News-Tribune files)

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The Edmund Fitzgerald heads out on to Lake Superior through the Duluth Ship Canal in an undated image. (UWS archives / News-Tribune files)

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The front page of the Duluth News-Tribune (negative image) from the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1975, carrying early reports of the Fitzgerald sinking. (News-Tribune files)

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The front page of the Duluth Herald (negative image) from the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1975, with more details on the sinking of the Fitzgerald the night before. (News-Tribune files)

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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)

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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)

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The pilot house of the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald, in an image taken from later exploration of the wreck. (Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum photo / News-Tribune files)

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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)

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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)

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The Split Rock Lighthouse beacon is illuminated on Nov. 10, 1994,  to commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald 19 years before. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)

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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:

11 thoughts on “The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, 1975

  1. Pingback: Sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald | R Scott Tyler

  2. Pingback: 36th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald | News Tribune Attic

  3. S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald 36 Year Anniversary
    November 10, 2011

    RIVER ROUGE — A memorial service is planned for Thursday November 10, 2011 to remember the 29 men who died when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975.
    The ceremony is set for 6 to 8 p.m. and the heated tent open at 4:30 p.m. for viewing Edmund Fitzgerald artifacts, near the Mariners Memorial Lighthouse at Belanger Park, off Belanger Park Drive and Marion.
    The event is held in River Rouge because that’s the city where the vessel was built in 1957 and ’58.
    Several speakers will give their memories of the ship, including people who helped construct it and relatives of some of the deceased crewmen.
    Artifacts, photographs and videos also will be on display and you can talk to the Fitz Ship Builders, past Crew Members and Fitz Family Members.
    At 7:10 p.m. — the time the ship sank — a wreath will be tossed into the Detroit River. A bell will be rung 29 times in memory of each person who died.
    A plaque presentation and lantern lighting is planned. Food and Refreshments will be provided free of charge.
    Event organizer Roscoe Clark has a Web site devoted to the vessel, which contains several video clips and photos of the ship, at http://www.ssedmundfitzgerald.com.
    Earlier in the day, an Edmund Fitzgerald open house will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. at the River Rouge Historical Museum, 10750 W. Jefferson Ave.
    This year, the service will be web cast free of charge for those viewers all across the US and Canada. Go to the official web site http://www.ssedmundfitzgerald.com.
    For more information and location call Roscoe Clark at (810) 519-2148.
    This is a special program held each year and is free of charge.

  4. I was out fishing for bluegill all by myself tonight. I’m a very long way from Iron River as I write this, and feeling kind of low. Two more Oulu/Iron River childhood friends died this past week, and I wasn’t able to make either funeral. Getting older sure takes a lot of life-long friends away, leaving a big hollow spot in our hearts and minds.
    The small lake I was fishing tonight reminded me of the small lake that Mike Armogost and I fished one evening about this time, well over 40 years ago. I vaguely remember the lake — it was small. Most of the lake front property was owned by friends of his family and ours. It was somewhere between the Pike Lake Chain (past Wheelers’) and Delta. We caught a mess of big bluegill, which we took back for a friends-and-family fish fry on a Sunday before Mike had to quickly get back to the Alloueze ore docks for another trip. I don’t remember if he was on the Fitzgerald at that time.

    Getting old is hell, and it gets more lonely with ever passing day.

    Anybody else sail on the B.F Jones?

    Crazy Arvo

    • Crazy Arvo,
      I was given a wooden handled red ax that has Str. B. F. Jones stenciled on the handle. What can you tell me about it? I am thinking it came off the ship you sailed on. What does Str. Mean?
      Appreciate any info. Thanks, Jean

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