Hear the final radio transmissions from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald which sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975. The ship sank along with its entire crew of 29. The wreck was immortalized in the Gordon Lightfoot song–”The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” When the ship launched on June 8, 1958, she was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes, and she remains the largest to have sunk there.
For seventeen years the Fitzgerald carried taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works in Detroit, Toledo, and other Great Lakes ports. As a “workhorse,” she set seasonal haul records six times, often breaking her own previous record. Captain Peter Pulcer was known for piping music day or night over the ship’s intercom system while passing through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers (between Lakes Huron and Erie), and entertaining spectators at the Soo Locks (between Lakes Superior and Huron) with a running commentary about the ship. Her size, record-breaking performance, and “DJ captain” endeared the Fitzgerald to boat watchers.
Carrying a full cargo of ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, she 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, the Fitz joined a second freighter, the SS Arthur M. Anderson. By the next day, the two ships were caught in the midst of a severe 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—a distance the Fitzgerald could have covered in two hours at her top speed. Although the Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank; Captain McSorley’s last message to the Anderson said, “We are holding our own.” Her crew of 29 all perished, and no bodies were recovered.
Many theories, books, studies and expeditions have examined the cause of the sinking. The Fitzgerald might have fallen victim to the high waves of the storm, suffered structural failure, been swamped with water entering through her cargo hatches or deck, experienced topside damage, or shoaled in a shallow part of Lake Superior. The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the best-known disasters in the history of Great Lakes shipping. Gordon Lightfoot made it the subject of his 1976 hit song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” after reading an article on the event, titled “The Cruelest Month,” which Newsweek printed in its November 24, 1975 issue.
Investigations into the sinking led to changes in Great Lakes shipping regulations and practices that included mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, increased freeboard, and more frequent inspection of vessels. (Source: Wikipedia)