It was 35 years ago today that the mighty and legendary freighter, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, saw its final voyage in the waters of Lake Superior.
The ship had departed Wisconsin on November 9, 1975 and en route to Zug Island, Detroit, encountered a winter storm that quickly intensified. When the National Weather Service issued a gale warning, the Fitzgerald along with a following ship, the Anderson, redirected their routes to the Canadian coast line hoping to seek shelter. Winds sustained nearly 60 mph that day, with recorded gusts of 100 mph. The captain of The Anderson received a radio relay from The Mighty Fitz at 3:30 pm. Captain McSorley reported to The Anderson that the ship had received considerable damage and was taking on water. A few minutes later, McSorley reported that the ship had lost its radar.
Captain McSorley was able to maintain radio contact with The Anderson. The last call received from The Mighty Fitz and her crew came at 7:10 pm when they reported that they were “holding their own”. It was the last communication call received by Captain Cooper to the Anderson from the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard did not initially take Anderson’s claim that the Fitzgerald was missing for nearly 90 minutes. Their search revealed not a single survivor.
It was later discovered that the ship had broken in two and came to rest in the murky waters of Lake Superior, known for having claimed more than 5,000 lives. On November 11, 1975 the mariner’s church in Detroit sounded a bell 29 times, one ring for each life lost aboard the Fitzgerald.
The tradition of ringing the bell is still carried on daily.