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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
How the Ship was Used
When and Where it Sank

Lake Superior belongs to the Great Lakes of North America which spreads 750 miles from east to west of the continent. It forms the largest freshwater system on the planet. In all of the five Great Lakes, Lake Superior stands as the biggest and widest lake of all. With a total water surface of 82,000 sq km or 31,700 sq mi and an average depth of 147 meters or 483 feet, many sea vessels succumb to its ever-changing currents. Its reputation even earned a song entitled “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976, Moose Music, Ltd.) that goes:

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

“The lake it is said never gives up her dead

when the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore 26,000 tons more

than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty….”

“The ship was the pride of the American side

comin’ back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go it was bigger than most…”

The song was a tribute to the world famous SS Edmund Fitzgerald and the men who lost their lives from the sinking.


How the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was Used

For nearly two decades, the Fitzgerald transported taconite iron ore from the mines in Duluth, Minnesota to the iron industry of Detroit, Michigan. The ship weighted 13,632 tons and measuring 729 feet long, making it as the largest carrier ever sailed on the Great Lakes until 1971. She often sailed and braved the Great Lakes setting seasonal haul records of six times and has a reputation for breaking her previous record. Fitzgerald became the first ship to traverse the Great Lakes carrying more than a million tons of ore passing through the Soo Locks in 1964.

Back in her prime days, the Fitzgerald was named as the “The Pride of the American Flag.”


Sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald

On November 10, 1975, the country saw the worst shipping disaster on the Great Lakes when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior. A severe storm took the lives of all 29 crew on board the veteran sea vessel.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald embarked on her ill-fated voyage from Superior, Wisconsin. She was carrying an approximate load of 26,000 tons of ore bound to Detroit, Michigan. Seasoned sailor with 44 years of experience, Captain Ernest M. McSorley contacted another sea vessel SS Arthur M. Anderson en route to Detroit.

Before leaving the port, a storm was starting to form but reported only as a typical November storm. However, about 2:00 am the NWS upgraded the gale warning to storm warning. The veteran captain decided to take the safer route to avoid treacherous waves of the storm. Even though the route northward would take them to a safer path, the two ships were caught in a severe storm with waves recorded at 35 feet high.

Fitzgerald sank 530 feet or 160m deep in the Canadian waters about 17 miles near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. On a perfect day, Fitzgerald could have covered the distance in less than two hours on her top speed.

Even with stories like this, there is much more to love and enjoy about the Great Lakes. Celebrate these beautiful waters with a Great Lakes Girl Hoodie.