Author Topic: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald  (Read 524 times)

TC Chris

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Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« on: November 08, 2019, 10:28:21 PM »
In 1975, on Nov. 10 (two days from today), the Edmund Fitzgerald, a 729 foot long steel freighter, sank in Lake Superior with all 29 hands lost.  I'm in Detroit right now for a work-related meeting, and tonight walked past the Mariner's Church on the Detroit River, which holds a memorial service each year.  You may remember Gordon Lightfoot's famous song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vST6hVRj2A

It's always hard for me to think that a boat 729 feet long--almost 2-1/2 football fields--could be broken by waves.  The answer is that these Lakes are more ferocious than most of us can imagine. 

Chris Campbell

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 08:45:03 AM »
It must not have been long after that Mr. Lightfoot recorded the song. I remember hearing it  the first time on an AM station through a 1940 Westinghouse WR288 table AM2SW pushbutton rescued from my great uncle's basement when we cleaned out their row house in town. I still have it, one of few family radio heirlooms.

Also, being in Geography class at the time, i had a good idea what it was about. Recently, my profession allowed me to look at construction plans for a  Flagship Niagara, as project at the Erie Soldiers and Sailors museum. I thought of what conditions a boat like that would encounter when loaded, it had room for 25 passengers IIRC.
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Dave

TC Chris

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2019, 10:04:00 PM »
I've sailed as crew on our local historic replica schooner, Madeline.  She was in the Great Lakes Tall Ships gatherings this past summer, as was Niagara.  Niagara is about twice Madeline's length.  Sailing in high winds and large seas on a small boat is challenging indeed. You suddenly realize how small and insignificant both you and the boat are.  It must be all the more so when you are on an enormous steel freighter and the conditions are putting it at risk.  I've seen some film footage of the lake boats in big seas and it's humbling.

Wikipedia tells us that Lightfoot drew inspiration for his song from a Newsweek article published on Nov. 24, 14 days after the wreck, and it was recorded in December.  That's a fast turn-around for a well-written song.

I can recall waking up in the morning to news that the Carl D. Bradley had gone down in November, 1958 and the Daniel J. Morrell in Nov., 1966.  Both were 600-plus footers--big boats.  That's why Lightfoot's song mentions the gales of November--it's when we can have freak storms with high winds and huge waves.

Chris Campbell


Bill

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2019, 06:58:57 AM »
I'm pretty sure I have told this story before, so I'll keep it short.  My Dad was in the Navy during WWII.  He was stationed at Pearl when the Japanese attacked.  He was on the USS Hull.  There was a conversation between my Dad and the Captain of the ship one day about the Great Lakes.  The Captain said the Great Lakes were far more dangerous than any ocean, he also said he would never be a Great Lakes Captain.  It seems hard to believe that our Great Lakes are more dangerous than the oceans,  I guess those that sail know best.  :)

Bill


TC Chris

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2019, 03:03:57 PM »
One aspect of it is that the lower density of the water, compared to salt water, makes the waves steeper and shorter in period (closer together).  Also, there's more contact with land.  I remember reading an interview with a world cruiser.  She was asked if it weren't frightening to be out in the middle of the ocean.  Oh no, she said, that's easy to deal with.  The frightening part is the hard stuff around the edges.  I know that on my own boats, the scary part is getting back near land or a narrow channel, places where there's a lot less room for maneuver or for mistakes. 

As to the Fitzgerald, on theory is that she bottomed out on a reef in heavy seas.  The reef was charted inaccurately, and in a huge storm navigation is much harder.  And the Fitz had lost her radar by that time anyway.  Wind or waves took it.

Chris Campbell

Bill

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2019, 06:27:59 AM »
I never thought of the density thing.  Makes sense. 

Bill

TC Chris

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2019, 10:47:52 PM »
Follow up on the Fitzgerald wreck.  Here's an interesting account of a dive on the wreck, the deepest dive ever on a Great Lakes wreck. It's now illegal under Canadian law.

https://mynorth.com/2008/11/death-defying-shipwreck-dive-edmund-fitzgerald/?utm_source=MyNorth+Newsletters&utm_campaign=ffe6b5042a-OUT+11-11-19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_872e266ef5-ffe6b5042a-%5BLIST_EMAIL_ID%5D&ct=t%28OUT+11-11-19%29&mc_cid=ffe6b5042a&mc_eid=%5BUNIQID%5D

Chris Campbell

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2019, 01:45:35 PM »
      An old Marx or Kent mechanical engineering handbook I had had a marine engineering section with stats on various ships of the era like the Queen Mary, and the Edmund Fitzgerald was listed. They had stats like engine propulsion type, tonnage, length, cruising knots  and other interesting facts for it. I forgot the year of the book but I guess the boat was still floating.

firedome

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2019, 04:34:48 PM »
Lightfoot is one of my favorite folk singers (he's still touring!) , and Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is one of my favorite beers... I have one every night after dinner!
Happy Motoring! from Roger in NY

TC Chris

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2019, 07:48:51 PM »
      An old Marx or Kent mechanical engineering handbook I had had a marine engineering section with stats on various ships of the era like the Queen Mary, and the Edmund Fitzgerald was listed. They had stats like engine propulsion type, tonnage, length, cruising knots  and other interesting facts for it. I forgot the year of the book but I guess the boat was still floating.

Great Lakes vessels have used a variety of propulsion schemes.   The earliest were sidewheelers with walking-beam steam engines. Later there were propeller vessels with triple-expansion steam reciprocating engines.  Then steam turbines and diesels.  The Big Fitz was steam turbine powered. Another modern steam engine was the Skinner Unaflow, two of which power our last coal-fired steam vessel, the carferry Badger.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniflow_steam_engine#Skinner_Unaflow
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Badger

The carferries were intended to carry railroad cars, and to operate year-round, which meant they were designed as icebreakers.  Now Badger carries automobiles and trucks, and no longer runs all winter.

Chris Campbell, off topic again

vintage cltr

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2019, 07:23:47 AM »
You guys need to travel to Whitefish Point in Michigan. The lighthouse is cool, but the shipwreck museum is awesome and has a lot or artifacts.
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Bill

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2019, 07:52:03 AM »
Been there done that.  And yes, it is very interesting.  Actually, visiting any of the Great Lakes Light Houses is fascinating. 

Bill


TC Chris

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2019, 08:12:45 PM »
Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state.  There are three on the mainland within 35 miles from my house, and a few more if you count the ones on cribs or islands in Lake Michigan.  What's interesting is they were built when we expected things to last a long time--no pole barns or second-rate engineering here.  The towers are sturdy and the keepers' houses, fuel storage buildings, and foghorn buildings are all substantial and durable.

Chris Campbell

Bill

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2019, 08:32:54 AM »
Very true Chris, very true.  They are well worth visiting.  And even more fun if tours are offered.

Bill

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Re: Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2019, 12:21:12 PM »
There are a couple of books written by Michigan authors about shipwrecks of the great lakes...they are very interesting..telling about the back stories on these ships.... also I was up in Newberry for a funeral during that very storm....and coming home at the north end of the bridge where the causeway is... the waves were washing over it!...so we knew this was a bad storm then.... and later when we got home we heard on the news that the Fitzgerald was missing....
Elton