SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975;with all hands lost. 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. Nicknamed Mighty Fitz, Fitz, or Big Fitz, the ship suffered a series of mishaps during her launch: it took three attempts to break the champagne bottle used to christen her, and she collided with a pier when she entered the water.
Carrying a full cargo of ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, she embarked on her final voyage from Superior, Wisconsin, to a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan, on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. By the next day the ship was caught in the midst of a severe winter storm on Lake Superior, with near hurricane-force winds and waves up to 35 feet high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m. Fitzgerald suddenly sank in Canadian waters 530 feet deep, approximately 17 miles 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.
No bodies was ever recovered. A body was discovered by the wreck, but it was a fatality from another wreck, some decades before, a reminder of how dangerous working on the Great Lakes can be.
Although the wreck was discovered on November 14, 1975, and many dives have been made to the site, no definitive answer as to the cause was ever established.
However, 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.
The tragedy inspired Canadian Gordon Lightfoot to write, compose and perform the song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." The song hit #1 in his native Canada, #2 in the USA, and broke the top 40 in the UK, but it has a sustaining power far beyond even the enviable heights it reached at the time.
Lightfoot considers this song to be his finest work.
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