Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake
Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of
29. When 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 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 beating 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 Fitzgerald to
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, 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. 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. Although Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty
earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank. Her crew of 29
all perished, and no bodies were recovered.
Many theories, books, studies and expeditions have examined the cause of
the sinking. Fitzgerald may 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".
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.