45 Years of Legacy – Remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald

LAKE SUPERIOR, Mich. (WBUP) — Today is the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. To this day, it remains the largest ship to ever go down in the Great Lakes.

While the shipwreck itself is clouded in mystery, it is a reminder of the power of Lake Superior.

The crew never issued a call for help, leading many to believe the intensity of the storm was sudden and unexpected.

Departing from Superior, Wisconsin on November 9th, the Edmund Fitzgerald was carrying over 26 tons of taconite as it headed to Zug Island in Detroit, Michigan. It would never reach its destination.

A strong Autumn storm with wind speeds reaching 50 knots created waves of almost 20 feet. These were challenging conditions for even the largest ships.

Less than 20 miles from the safety of Whitefish Point, investigators would later say the ship was in the worst possible place during the intense storm.

The Edmund Fitzgerald sank, taking the entire crew of 29 men into the icy water grave of Lake Superior.

Captain Ernest McSorley took over the Fitzgerald in 1972. At the time of the sinking, he was a 37 year veteran on the lakes, serving as a captain for 25 of those years.

45 years later, the Edmund Fitzgerald leaves a legacy in its wake.

At the request of family members of the crew, the Edmund Fitzgerald’s 200 pound bronze bell was recovered by The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in 1995.

A a direct response to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, buoys were spread across the Great Lakes. They measure wind speed, direction, and wave height.

Additional technology created the Coastal Marine Automated Network which includes air temperature and surface pressure measurements to help ships navigate dangerous storms.

Although the wreck was an undeniable tragedy, the technological improvements and observation methods have had a lasting impact on maritime safety.