Edmund Fitzgerald question

I was reading the lyrics and came to the bit where it says, They might have split up, or they might have capsized. They may have broke deep, and took water.

What does that last bold line mean/refer to?

Thanks in advance.

I always took it to mean they cracked the bottom of the hull, either from bottoming out or from thermal stress and twisting, then leaked and sank.

QtM, lifelong resident of the Lake Michigan shore

http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/fitz.html

There is no universally accepted theory about what happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald. One idea is the hatch covers were not bolted tight; a very big wave came along, blew off a cover, the hatch filled up, and they sank.

This theory is disputed by some who know the lakers (boats that ply the Great Lakes). Seasoned hands say that the captain would never have taken a chance with the hatch covers and would have bolted them down solidly. (In calm weather, it is common for the hatch covers to be lightly held down with maybe 1/3 of the “dogs” in place. In heavier weather, 1/2 or all of the dogs are locked down. Since it takes several hours for a 4-man crew to lock all the dogs down on all hatch covers, you can see why they wouldn’t perform this task unless really necessary.)

Another theory is a great wave came along, and a 700’ laker pitched down into a 500’ lake, driven by full-speed screws, hitting bottom and breaking up. Not impossible, but not the leading theory.

My sig has never been more appropriate than now.

I remember reading in a book about Great Lakes disasters the story of a laker called the Argus. She was carrying a load of coal, and was caught in the great storm of 1913 on Lake Huron. Another Captain actually witnessed her ‘sudden death’. She was struggling in high waves, when a tall wave hit - she rode it OK, except that when the stern was passing ove the wave ANOTHER tall wave hit the bow. So BOTH ends were on waves, with the great expanse (fully loaded with coal, remember) in the middle unsupported in midair. According to the witness, the Argus just ‘crumbled like an eggshell’ and was gone. He couldn’t even stop to look for survivors, as he was in a fight to save his own ship. (Also lost in the same storm was her sister ship, the Hydrus - and on the same lake.)

Something like this could be what happened to the Fitzgerald:

I remember reading in a book about Great Lakes disasters the story of a laker called the Argus. She was carrying a load of coal, and was caught in the great storm of 1913 on Lake Huron. Another Captain actually witnessed her ‘sudden death’. She was struggling in high waves, when a tall wave hit - she rode it OK, except that when the stern was passing ove the wave ANOTHER tall wave hit the bow. So BOTH ends were on waves, with the great expanse (fully loaded with coal, remember) in the middle unsupported in midair. According to the witness, the Argus just ‘crumbled like an eggshell’ and was gone. He couldn’t even stop to look for survivors, as he was in a fight to save his own ship. (Also lost in the same storm was her sister ship, the Hydrus - and on the same lake.)

Something like this could be what happened to the Fitzgerald:

Another quote on the Big Blow of November, 1913 (sorry - this topic has fascinated me since I was a kid):

In a mildly rough sea, two guys can secure all the dogs on all the hatches of a five hold carrier in fewer than 20 minutes. (I could actually dog hatches much faster than I could release them.) In addition, no sane first mate (the guy who is usually in charge of loading) would have waited until they had cast off before dogging the hatches if the sea was rough. (Not that sanity always has much in common with laker officers.)
(The time required to dog all the hatches on the older “hatch farms” with telescoping hatch covers and twist-down dogs is considerably longer and is probably consistent with the multiple hour estimate. Ships built after 1950, or so, had a different type of hatch that was lifted on and off by a “hatch crane” traveling on rails and the dogs were of a “snap on” variety (much like the snaps on a suitcase) pushed in place by a long-handled tool.)

That said, it was true that in peaceful waters some ships did fasten all the dogs. Aboard the Sherwin we always dogged everything. Aboard the Beeghly, we dogged every other unless rough weather was reported.

In answer to the OP, I don’t recall ever hearing the phrase “break deep” when I was on the boats, but when I heard the song it immediately conjured the image (based on other phrases I had heard) of burying the bow in a wave. This would be consistent with the information Squink posted.

[hijack]

Sault Ste Marie, MI has a neat museum for the EF. It sunk in Whitefish Bay on L. Superior, about 15 miles NW of the twin Soos (Sault Ste Marie, MI and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario)… Anyway, wreckage washed up from that as far away as Batchewana Bay, Ontario (~60 miles North of SS Marie). Not sure how much further it travelled though. The reason I know it went that far is because my family has a cottage on the North Shore of Superior at Batchewana Bay and wreckage washed up on the beach there. Lake Superior truly is a majestic, beatiful, enchanting, and very unforgiving lake.

[/hijack]

While the Great Lakes often get deprecated by salt-water skippers as mere “puddles”, they can be really quite more dangerous, as the wave harmonics of fresh water are quite deadly. The amplitude of the waves can be greater than 25 feet, while their frequency can be much greater than that of saltwater waves, resulting in some ships being lifted up on both ends out of the water, and then splitting in the middle. Also, just as the boat (and ore carriers are called boats on the lakes) is trying to start to recover from one wave’s assault, the next one is already upon them.

So to answer the OP, when Gordon Lightfoot said “They may have broke deep and took water” he was basically saying they may have plowed into a big wave instead of going over it and took on too much water to ‘bob’ back up to the surface.

http://www3.pei.sympatico.ca/wfrancis/lightfoot/wreckof.htm

OK, so I got all that, but what does:
“That good ship and true was a (Em) bone to be chewed”
mean?

Some sort of “bone in her teeth” nautical thing?

Yeah, sort of “bone in her teeth” (as in being carried off to be played with) and sort of a “worrying a bone” idea of having the wind just chew on them as long as it wanted. It isn’t a particularly nautical expression, just an apt metaphor.

I’d forgotten how sad that song was until I reread the lyrics - I haven’t heard it in several years, since we studied it in grade 9 as part of an english/history course.

:frowning:

I think the implication is more that the nose went down, the ship bottomed out, and the hull broke towards the bottom.

My brother and I have a small boat on Lake Erie and one day a few years ago we saw a large ore freighter on the horizon and decided to investigate. As we approached the ship we discovered it was the Arthur M Anderson the ship that was sailing behind the “Big Fitz” the night she sank.

boatnerd is a great site for all things nautical and nice on the Great Lakes and St. Laurence.

**They may have broke deep, and took water. **

(2nd opinion on sinking cause)
The Lake Carriers Association contends that her foundering was caused by flooding through bottom and ballast tank damage resulting from bottoming on the Six Fathom Shoal between Caribou and Michipicoten Islands.

I’m surprised that that LCA is holding that forth as their preferred solution. It turns an Act of God into Pilot Error (since the Fitz shouldn’t have been steaming that far East near the shoals).

I remember when the one of the Andersen’s crew first remarked on the possibility. A number of people rose up in indigantion and suddenly no member of the Andersen’s crew could be found to repeat it for the news media. (I guess it would not have to have been pilot error, as the Fitz might simply have been unable to maintain course while the wind blew them eastward. However, since the Andersen was able to stay to the West, there is always a suspicion that the Fitz was trying to cut some time by angling across the reef.)

No information from me, but I just wanted to add that my wife went to school with the youngest member of the crew, Bruce Hudson. We went to the museum up at Whitefish Point a year or so ago. I was extremely suprised to learn just how many shipwrecks there have been on the lakes over the years.