Remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald 45 years later

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 4:40 AM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The familiar song opening of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ is enough to sweep you back to November 10, 1975.

That was the evening when the mighty Edmund Fitzgerald and her crew fell to the gales of Lake Superior. The National Weather Service determined that the likely cause of storm force winds and waves over 25 feet doomed the titanic vessel and all 29 men on board some 15 miles away from Whitefish Point.

Maritime Historian Fred Stonehouse said remembering the “Big Fitz” and her crew led by Captain Ernest McSorley carries even more meaning to the maritime community.

“(The) Fitzgerald has come to actually be the icon, the memory stone, the touchstone for all 65-hundred shipwrecks on the (Great) Lakes and all 30-thousand mariners lost,” he said.

Stonehouse said the tragedy soon propelled government agencies to boost the technology and data resources for improved forecasting over the Great Lakes.

“And if you were to compare for example for where the reporting stations were in 1975 with where they are today, it is night and day,” he explained.

That data network is extensive across the Great Lakes' shores, including buoys over the water measuring sea surface temperature, wind speed and direction and barometric pressure. The National Weather Service Marquette always makes clear in their issued marine warnings: “TO RESPECT THE POWER OF THE GREAT LAKES.”

“(The) Fitzgerald is really in our memories so much. One of the drivers is certainly the song by Gordon Lightfoot, ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ and that haunting ballad is the one that really keeps this ship alive in the memory of a lot of people,” Stonehouse said.

Tuesday, we commemorate those during that fateful evening on November 10, 1975.

Click here to learn about a special virtual event the Marquette Maritime Musuem is holding Tuesday evening.

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