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Boomer Anthems: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

“Forty two years ago last month, the Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior Wisconsin loaded with 26,116 long tons of iron ore – enough to build 75 thousand cars – on it’s way to Zug Island in Detroit. As infamously memorialized in song, it never arrived.

“Until then the worst storm documented on the Great Lakes was a 3 day blow from November 7-10, 1913, over a hundred years ago now, that claimed 19 ships and took 250 lives. I rerun this story every year not because it is such a heart-stopping saga but because it is a reminder that in the scheme of things we are really quite powerless. Man did not create climate change; Somebody else did that for us.

“So raise a glass to the memory of the good men who served on the Edmund Fitzgerald that fateful day; to the men who sail into the storm not knowing what their fate might be, knowing full well they may not reach safe harbor.” MOTUS A.D.: The Edmund Fitzgerald: With the Gales of November Remembered

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  • Patvann December 4, 2017, 7:31 PM


  • TANSTAFL December 5, 2017, 2:56 AM

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down when the gales of November come early

  • Len Faria December 5, 2017, 7:56 AM

    26,000 tons MORE than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed EMPTY

  • Gordon December 5, 2017, 9:53 AM

    If you’re a bit spergy like me, visit the Iron Range sometime and see just how much infrastructure had to be built to get those 26,000 tons of taconite pellets onboard the Eddie Fitz (what the kool kids kalled it). Just the stuff in Duluth harbor is damned impressive. Engineers, man.

  • Amazed December 5, 2017, 11:06 AM

    As a born and bred Michigander , of a certain age, I remember that night well. God bless the seamen who do not return.

  • ghostsniper December 5, 2017, 2:52 PM

    That’s 52 MILLION pounds.
    Think about that number for a minute.
    The rear 250 feet broke off then the front 250 feet broke off, and the middle 250 feet dissolved.
    The center was lifted by the 3rd sister and with no hogging structure the ends were unable to stay attached. All of this went down in mere seconds.

  • Skorpion December 5, 2017, 6:59 PM

    Would anyone outside of the Great Lakes remember that tragedy today, if not for Gordon Lightfoot’s brilliant ballad? His song has made the big ship’s sinking the SECOND-most famous peacetime maritime disaster in human history.
    Respect to the good men who went down on the EDMUND FITZGERALD.

  • Aesop December 6, 2017, 8:29 AM

    The salient point, from a documentary somewhat earlier than the Titanic phenomenon, but arund the same timeframe, was a deep dive that noted the dogs on the main hatches were shattered only about 1 in 4 or 5, the rest being totally unscathed. Indicating that sloppy deckwork, to with not securing all the hatch dogs, allowed the hatch covers to shift, water to enter, and then the cargo to shift, shattering the few dogs engaged, and then foundering the ship.
    No one likes to talk about that, or speak ill of the dead, but as in most instances, there are victims, and there are volunteers. It’s not the cook’s fault he’s just as dead, but the deckhands and officers were rather recklessly sloppy, and it cost them their lives, their shipmates, their ship, and their future, a lesson that never goes out of style.

    Mother Nature is an unforgiving b*tch, with no sense of humor.

  • ghostsniper December 7, 2017, 2:18 PM

    Steel is heavier than water and that ship was filled to the waterline.
    The ship was designed so that no matter how much water or steel was on board it could not sink.
    No, this is not the Titanic all over again.
    Any water in the holds that exceeded the waterline would have vented right back out.

    Nautical architecture is unique in that it can use the water itself as properties for the structural integrity, a property not available to land based architecture (unless you design below the waterline, which has been my specialty for the past 20 years).

    Notice, when you see the weight of a ship listed it isn’t the actual weight of the ship for their is no way to actually know precisely. But the exact volume of the craft can be accurately measured, then transposed into the weight of the water that would assume that space. Thus, the weight of a waterborne craft will almost always be said to “displace” X tons of water.

    OK, since part of the weight of a ship is supported by the water it displaces, as long as that ship remains in the water structural integrity is assured. If a large ship is dry docked it has to be supported at multiple points as the hull and underlying structural members cannot sustain the weight of the craft.

    There is a unique thing that occurs on large bodies of “enclosed water” called a seiche, or 3 sisters. It has to do with the rotation of the earth and gravitational pull and resonance. A large lake can have it but an ocean can’t. Because the distance between the 3 waves is so vast it is not possible to see but once started they expand and become quicker over time. They “bounce” back and forth across lakes, taking days in duration on large lakes like Superior and eventually reduce in size and timing. The seiche in question was felt by the captain of the trailing ship Anderson.

    The resonance of the waves was such that they hit the Fitzgerald longitudally and because it’s length was longer than the duration of the waves “hogging” occurred, which means the ends of the ship were lifted leaving the center unsupported by the required water volume. Without the water below to push against, the steel pellet cargo suddenly weighed more than the relatively thin hull could support and almost instantly dissolved. Yes, dissolved, because there is no trace of it’s existence.

    The ship was the maximum length allowed at the time, 779 feet and the center section of about 250′ is nowhere to be found, except possibly in small fragments amongst the pellets on the lake floor.

    A couple centuries ago this same thing happened to the ship known as Old Ironsides but it did not sink. Almost, but not quite. So it was dry docked and very large multicurved diagonal structural timbers were installed from corner to corner in the lowest areas of the hull to counter the upward forces of the 3 sisters. It was then that the term “hogging” was created.

    There. That’s your multi-discipline educational lecture of the day, for those that did not fall asleep as students are want to do. In this exercise we covered marine architecture, structural stability, physical science, and even a little US history. May this inspire you to delve into these very interesting topics on your own, with the most advanced informational tool ever created (thanks algore!), and perhaps create a change within yourself rather harping over the same old gov-poly-soc nonsense that nobody can change anyway.

  • bart simpsonson December 8, 2017, 8:01 PM

    As a resident of Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan (and today still except for the 8 or so months I live in Chattanooga and Phoenix I remember that day and night very well. The wind and the wave action in the city and at the head of the Soo Locks at the foot of Lake Superior was unbelievable and unprecendented (at least in my lifetime). I and most everyone else there at the time will never forget it. The power of the world’s largest freshwater lake was made plain to us all…….