SS Edmund Fitzgerald

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was owned by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and was registerd in the Port of Milwaukee. She first launched in 1958, built by Great Lakes Engineering Works.

She was a lake freighter 729 feet in length, 75 feet wide, and carried taconite ore pellets from mines near Duluth, Minnesota to ports in Detroit, Toledo and others. She was the largest ship to haul iron ore on the Great Lakes.

On her final voyage the Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior, Wisconsin (Nov 9, 1975) with a full load (25,400 tons). With a seasoned crew and Captain (Ernest M. McSorley) on board, they were joined by a second freighter, SS Arthur M. Anderson. The weather turned bad the next day.

The Arthur M. Anderson received two messages from the Edmund Fitzgerald. The first  “I have a bad list, lost both radars. And am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I’ve ever been in.” and the second, and last, was “We are holding our own.”

Only two empty lifeboats were found and no crew. A U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft found the sunken ship 4 days later. The Edmund Fitzgerald was broken in half and some have recently speculated that the front was on a giant wave and the rear on another tearing the hull in half.

Here is the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald November 10, 1975

Michael E. Armagost37Third MateIron River, Wisconsin
Fred J. Beetcher56PorterSuperior, Wisconsin
Thomas D. Bentsen23OilerSt. Joseph, Michigan
Edward F. Bindon47First Asst. EngineerFairport Harbor, Ohio
Thomas D. Borgeson41Maintenance ManDuluth, Minnesota
Oliver J. Champeau41Third Asst. EngineerSturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Nolan S. Church55PorterSilver Bay, Minnesota
Ransom E. Cundy53WatchmanSuperior, Wisconsin
Thomas E. Edwards50Second Asst. EngineerOregon, Ohio
Russell G. Haskell40Second Asst. EngineerMillbury, Ohio
George J. Holl60Chief EngineerCabot, Pennsylvania
Bruce L. Hudson22Deck HandNorth Olmsted, Ohio
Allen G. Kalmon43Second CookWashburn, Wisconsin
Gordon F. MacLellan30WiperClearwater, Florida
Joseph W. Mazes59Special Maint. ManAshland, Wisconsin
John H. McCarthy62First MateBay Village, Ohio
Ernest M. McSorley63CaptainToledo, Ohio
Eugene W. O’Brien50WheelsmanToledo, Ohio
Karl A. Peckol20WatchmanAshtabula, Ohio
John J. Poviach59WheelsmanBradenton, Florida
James A. Pratt44Second MateLakewood, Ohio
Robert C. Rafferty62StewardToledo, Ohio
Paul M. Riippa22Deck HandAshtabula, Ohio
John D. Simmons63WheelsmanAshland, Wisconsin
William J. Spengler59WatchmanToledo, Ohio
Mark A. Thomas21Deck HandRichmond Heights, Ohio
Ralph G. Walton58OilerFremont, Ohio
David E. Weiss22CadetAgoura, California
Blaine H. Wilhelm52OilerMoquah, Wisconsin

Gordon Lightfoot wrote this famous song,
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
[Former version:] That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
[Latter version:] That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
Then later that night when the ship’s bell rang
Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
‘Twas the witch of November come stealin’
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin’
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck
Saying, “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.”
[Former version:] At seven PM a main hatchway caved in
[Latter version:] At seven PM it grew dark, it was then
He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.”
The captain wired in he had water comin’ in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below, Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered

[Former version:] In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
[Latter version:] In a rustic old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral
The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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