37th Anniversary Of The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald


The freighter Edmund Fitzgerald is guided by the tug Vermont under the Blatnik Bridge and through the opening in the Interstate Bridge, circa 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

Today – Nov. 10, 2012 – is the 37th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in a powerful Lake Superior storm. The crew of 29, including several men from the Northland, died when ship, heading from Superior to Detroit with a load of taconite, sank off Whitefish Point in eastern Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975.

A little after 7 p.m. that day, the Fitzgerald was in radio contact with the nearby Arthur M. Anderson, and reported that they were “holding our own” in heavy seas. There was no further contact with the freighter; minutes later the ship had disappeared from radar screens.

I compiled a number of archive photos and other information about the Fitzgerald in 2010, on the 35th anniversary of the wreck. You can view that post here.

Among the items posted there is this well-done video for Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song about the wreck:

Split Rock Lighthouse northeast of Two Harbors will host its annual beacon lighting and memorial service for the victims of the Fitzgerald, and all Great Lakes wrecks, this afternoon. They will toll a bell 29 times for each man who lost his life on the Fitzgerald, and then toll the bell a 30th time for all lost mariners. After that, the lighthouse’s beacon will be lit. Find more information about the ceremony here.

Here’s a News Tribune video of the Nov. 10, 2011, memorial ceremony at Split Rock:

And here’s a photo I took a little later that afternoon, of the lighthouse shining out over Lake Superior from its lofty perch:

Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

18 Responses

  1. Finbarr o Leary

    I wish all the families who lost loved ones on Edmund Fitzgerald my sincere sympathy and my best wishes

  2. Patrick Gainey

    I was 15 when the Fitz went down. I remember how very, very warm it was on the 7th or 8th – I was listening to my transistor radio on Connors Point, listening to the Bee Gee’s hit Nights on Broadway. My father was 1st Mate on the William Clay Ford – he was going to be in Duluth. The day it sank I remember the huge wet snowflakes coming home from Duluth Cathedral to Superior where I lived. Then around 7pm I heard that an ore carrier had sunk near Whitefish Point. Since my dad was due in the next day, and they didn’t say which ship or even which company at first it was quite a scare. He was the only ship besides the Anderson (there were over a dozen in Whitefish Point taking shelter from the 90 mph winds) that went out and searched for the Fitz. He said ‘old timers’ were seasick that night. They found one lifeboat – it’s on display now at the Soo in the museum ship Valley Camp – that was ripped in two, another stove in. Nobody could have survived that night. My hearts go out to all the families – for a short time I knew how they felt, not knowing if my dad’s ship had gone down or not.

    1. Patrick Gainey

      actually, re-reading it must have been later than 7pm that the radio reported, since that’s right about when they sank, but it was definately that evening. sad, sad day.

  3. Doug

    I remember the news reports about the Fitz. I was 12 and lived on 2nd St. and 17th Ave. west, up on the hill. My sister and I delivered the Duluth Herald at the time in our neighborhood. I remember the big story about it in the newspaper also. I still come back to my hometown of Duluth, when I get the chance. I am currently living in Springfield, Mo. I sure do miss growing up in Duluth! I can’t wait to come up that way again!

  4. Ed Privette

    Michael Armagost, who was lost on the Fitz was our neighbor in Maple, Wis. I have fond memories of hanging out at his house and especially with his younger brother Johnnie. We did many things together and I especially remember that the first time I ever ate rabbit was at Armagost’s. It was so much better than I ever imagined. My first cousin Maureen actually went out on a few dates with Michael. Anyway, just thought I would share this and say …. may they all rest in peace. I was in college the night it happened and when my mom called and told me about it, I was in shock, because we knew so many people that worked “on the boats” it was just truly hard to believe.
    People don’t seem to really believe me when we’re together and hear the Gordon Lightfoot song and I say I actually knew someone on the ship. Oh, well…their loss. Lake Superior is Gitche Gumee.

  5. Janeane McPeek

    Love You and May God Bless your families! Even 37 years later you can still remember your lost! They’re in Peace in heaven praying for their love ones to enjoy their life!!! They’re in Peace and resting in the arms of Jesus!!! They’re in their heavenly body and not in pain!!! Don’t worry they still love you and one day soon Our Lord Jesus Christ will take us home in Heaven!!! It’s an honor to name my son after the Edmund Fitzgerald!!! (3-22-86)..I’m hoping to make it to the 40th anniversary!!! Hoping they’re having touring at the time (We live in Topeka,Kansas).

    1. Janeane McPeek

      I also want to say on March 8,2009,Gordon Lightfoot at T.P.A.C.,Topeka,Kansas. We met the cook’s daughter and grandchildren . I would love to meet them again!. I would love to see Gordon enter into the U.S.A. Rock n Roll and Grand O’ Opera Hall Of Fame!!! While he is still alive!!! Thank You for talking to me that night!!! My son was also name after the song too!!!

  6. Sue Retzer

    I remember seeing the Fitz when it was at Fraser ship yards and in dry dock… seems like it was there for the longest time…

  7. Chris

    My Grandpa was the 1st Mate on the Anderson back in the 70’s I dont know if he was on it that day. My Mom also worked with Nolan Church’s daughter.


      My grandfather was one of several people asked if he would sail the first leg to Detroit on its way to Cleveland, he turned it down. I guess they were short a crew member. He was a ship welder and union shop steward at Frazier Ship yard in Superior, His name was Albert Martell, if there is anyone out there from that area and era reading this blog, please add a reply. He worked on the Edmund when it was there during winter dockings. I also recall him showing me the Edmund and the Arthur M. Anderson dry docked there together once over the winter, maybe 1973 or 74? He also helped to cut her sister ship in half and add 100 feet to the middle, It was identical and built at the same time in Cleveland as the Edmund. Its a shame they don’t have any documentries airing tonight about that terrible day. GOD BLESS the lost 29 brave Sailors of the EDMUND FITZGERALD on Nov. 10th, 1975.

  8. Nadine Sonnemann

    Last year we toured the shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point, specifically to see the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was a very moving experience to watch the video footage of when they recovered the bell from the shipwreck and when they put a replica bell with all the lost seamans names on it back down with the shipwreck.

  9. Gordon S

    A few years ago, a friend of mine that is originally from Flint, Michigan had taken me up to where he was raised. He also showed me the Soo Locks where the big ships came in. I was amazed by the size, I being from Oklahoma. On this day of the lost of the “men and the ship, the edmund fitzgerald, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  10. Beth Foley

    I am the daughter of Blaine Wilhelm. My father was an oiler on the Fits. The night it went down. I am just spending some time remembering my dad. I am happy to see other people remember too.I love you and still miss you dad. I hope to see you in heaven .

  11. We saw the Fitz twice that year – going through the locks at the Soo as we headed for Duluth on our annual trip, and again, as it passed under the bridge on it’s way east. I seem to remember, and I could be wrong and would appreciate hearing if I am, it was the ship that passed under us as we took a trip up on the bridge – one of the last to do so. Little did we know.

  12. I remember that night all too well. I was producing the newscasts that night at KDAL TV. Absolutely horrible. Uncertainty…hope, but really knowing there was virtually no chance of the Fitz being OK or any of the souls on board still alive. I still think of it often, and especially when the Gordon Lightfoot song plays. It is interesting if I am with friends when it does. I live in Tennessee now and most don’t even know that it was real, they just know the song.

  13. My family has some small Canadian acreage along the northeastern shore of Lake Superior facing Whitefish Bay. Thanksgiving week-end of 1975, having heard about the storm and sinking, we came up from Indianapolis to check out any fallen trees that might have closed our access or landed on the cottage roof. My sister and I, then in our early teens, found an orange canvas-covered cork life ring with attached nylon rope, bearing no ship’s name but a big black number, on the bouldery Lake Superior shore not far from our own waterfront and rolled it back with us. For a few summers we would slop around in the lake with that life ring but it was no toy; all it was good for was floating like any ring-shaped piece of wood. We would store it under the deck when we went away for the school year and over the next dozen years or so it rotted away in the damp.

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