Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.
Thanks. Now that damn song’s going to be running through my head all day.
A similar Great Lakes freighter is now the Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum in Cleveland, which I visited earlier this year. Among the displays on board that ship/museum is some information about the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Thanks for the reminder. I’ll be ringing the bell set out on the beach by my place tonight.
And I’ll be doing it again on the 18th for the Carl D Bradley, which sank on the other side of the lake from me, back when I was a young 'un.
True story. My brother and I had a small boat (20’) on Lake Erie and one day when we were on the lake just before sunset we spotted a large ship on the horizon.
We gave chase to investigate and found it was an ore freighter, the Arthur M Anderson this was the ship who was with the Fitz the night she sank. After the Anderson reached a safe port she went back on to Lake Superior, still during the storm to help search for survivors. It was quite a treat to see a ship involved in a historical event and to know she was still in service. We circled around her a couple on times when went back home since by this time it was very dark.
No offense to the folks aboard the sunken ship, but if you’re tired of the Gordon Lightfoor song, you can listen to WROR’s parody of it, The Rectum of Edmund Fitzgerald:
sorry but I love that song. other one he does is “Ghost of Cape Horn”, husband has tried to ruin it for me by singing “Ghost of Gay Porn”!
Oh, well, I actually think the original is a pretty atmospheric piece of music, but lord, it gets in one’s head.
For the benefit of a 34 year old West Coaster, how big a news story was the Edmund Fitzgerald’s sinking originally? Banner headlines, national TV, etc? What was the national response as opposed to the Midwestern response?
I remember hearing about it in the news the next day. Mainly because it was one of the biggest boats operating on Lake Superior, the largest one ever to sink, with one of the largest loss of crew lives.
Historically, a boat sinks on the Great Lakes every 9 or 10 days. But most of them are small ones, and average only 5 lives lost. The Edmund Fitzgerald was much more than average.
The museum up @ Whitefish Point in God’s Country UP is quite nice. Make a stop at Taquahmenon Falls and Paradise, MI after.
I was 7 when it happened. I grew up in a dinky farm town in NW Ohio right on the Indiana border.
I remember the evening news and the headline in the paper the next day. The next year my dad told me we were going to Detroit to see family and to go to the memorial at the Mariners Church. I asked why. I turns out one of the men killed on the Fitz, Eugene O’Brien, was a distant cousin.
It was on the ride back to my aunt and uncle’s house in the suburbs that I learned every man on my dad’s side of the family had served either in the navy or as a merchant sailor going all the way back to France and Ireland. My dad was the first one anyone in the family could trace that hadn’t done water duty. He volunteered for the Army in WWII on the advice of his father, who had hated the navy and commercial sailing so much he moved to Indiana and became a farmer.
Before I moved to Arizona in 1994 I made the trek to Detroit for the memorial every year.
Since I have 12 bottles of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter in my fridge, I’ll be sure and toast the memory of the crew tonight.
It’s good to live in Ohio.
No wonder they played this the morning. Is it possible there are two versions? One a little bit longer with more detail? I didn’t think a load of steel going to Cleveland was mentioned in the regular radio version.
32 Down on the Robert Mackenzie was, I understand, originally written to be about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, but Paul Gross changed the name of the ship out of respect to the family. The song was written for an episode of Due South which featured the sinking of the ship as a plot point.
I grew up in Port Arthur/Thunder Bay ON, at one time the largest freshwater port in the world. The Great Lakes shipping routes were a big part of life here, especially since one of my grandfathers (step-grandfather, actually) was an officer on the lake freighters.
I was six when the Edmund Fitzgerald went down, and I was having a “sleep-over” at my Grandma’s that night. Although he wasn’t on that boat, nor anywhere near Whitefish bay, my grandmother was beside herself with fear and worry. I still remember that night and the obsession with listening for news on he radio, the tv, anything she could get her hands on.
I had never made the connction until now that it sunk the day before Rememberance Day. If it had been the Bay St Paul instead of Mighty Fitz, my grandmother would have had terrible Novembers, considering her first marriage ended by being a WWII widow. (See my post in the Rememberance Day thread)
That rate has decreased quite a bit in recent years. I find only two listings for sunken ships, with a total of 4 deaths, since the beginning of 2000.
Also, http://www.boatnerd.com/ is a great site for info about the great lakes shipping, past and present.
I’m trying to think of other events that are probably still remembered by the general public largely because of songs written about them.
Most are minor battles, I guess. I doubt one American in a thousand would remember the bombardment of Ft. McHenry without the Star Spangled Banner, for example.
Completely agree – and I’ve loved that song for years.
However, I’m compelled to point out that, with normal temperatures on the shores of Lake Superior vs. those near Jackson on the LP, it’s usually true that Paradise is colder than Hell!
There was a History Channel Show, called Deep Sea Detectives, that re-investigated the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald using modern imaging and deep sea techniques. Very interesting!! (the episode is called “The Death of the Edmund Fitzgerald”)