The Edmund Fitzgerald


The Edmund Fitzgerald Essay, Research Paper

One of the greatest ships to sail the Great Lakes was the Edmund Fitzgerald. The

Edmund Fitzgerald had sailed for many years until it sank in 1975.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was built in 1958; it was 729 feet long and weighed 13,632 tons (Stonehouse 13). This was the largest ship to sail the Great Lakes until 1971(Stonehouse 13). The Edmund Fitzgerald had a sister ship called the Arthur B. Homer, which was the second biggest ship on the great lakes (Stonehouse 13). The Edmund Fitzgerald had a 7,000 horsepower steam turbine engine that could push the ship at around 16 miles an hour (Stonehouse 13). Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee owned the ship. Aboard the ship there were 29 crew members, the captain, 3 licensed deck officers, a chief engineer, 4 licensed engineering officers, and 20 unlicensed personnel (U.S. Marine Reports). The ships captain was Ernest Mcsorley who was a master of the Great Lakes and had 44 years sailing them (Stonehouse 25). The ship had sailed the great lakes for many years until that day in 1975 when it was never seen again.

The Edmund Fitzgerald had left a port in Superior, Wis. At around 2:15 pm

on November 09, 1975 (Stonehouse 24). The ship was fully fueled and loaded for its trip to Detroit Michigan. The boat had traveled about two hours across lake superior when it became in sight of another boat, the Arthur M. Anderson. Around 7:00 Pm the Edmund Fitzgerald started to come across bad weather conditions and had to change its course. The Fitzgerald and the Anderson both changed course and started heading to the lakes more northern waters, which was called the fall north route (Stonehouse 25). The two ships had traveled along the same course for many hours and the storm was still very strong. The two ships were battling waves of 10-12 feet, winds of up to fifty knots, and even snow (Stonehouse 26). The Anderson was about 16 miles away from the Fitzgerald when the watchman lost sight of it due to heavy snow (Stonehouse 27). That was the last time anyone had ever seen the Edmund Fitzgerald afloat.

The two ships had traveled along, now only with radar and radio contact. The storm started to worsen. Now with winds at 43 knots and waves of 12 to 16 feet, the ship was taking on water (Stonehouse 27). The Fitzgerald had radioed to the Anderson that they had a rail down and some vents were damaged (Stonehouse 27). Minutes after the radio contact between the Anderson and the Fitzgerald, the Anderson had received an emergency broadcast from the coast guard stating that all ships were to find safe anchorage (Stonehouse 28). At this time the Soo locks and the Mackinaw Bridge were closed down due to winds of up to 96 miles per hour (Stonehouse 28). The Fitzgerald had lost both of its radars and had to maintain radio contact with the Anderson (Stonehouse 28). During this contact the first mate of the Anderson asked the Fitzgerald: Oh by the way, how are you making out with your problem? the reply from the Fitzgerald was We are holding our own (Stonehouse 29). Those words were the last words ever heard from the Fitzgerald, which soon disappeared off radar (Stonehouse 30).

At 9:25 pm the call was made from the coast guard to start a search for the missing Fitzgerald (Stonehouse 32). The search for the Fitzgerald went on for 5 days. They had many ships and aircraft from all around the region including Canada. On the second day of the search they had found two of the lifeboats from the Fitzgerald very near to the Anderson, which was off from Coppermine Point (Stonehouse 43). On the fifth day they finally discovered a clue of the whereabouts of the missing ship. The discovery was made by a Navy aircraft, which was equipped with a magnetic detection device (Stonehouse 42). The first diver search was conducted from November 14 through the 16, but there was no luck on positively identifying the wreckage (Stonehouse 43). A second attempt to identify the wreckage was conducted from November 22 through the 25, and successfully identified it as the Edmund Fitzgerald (Stonehouse 43).

The Edmund Fitzgerald is located 17 miles northwest of Whitefish point and is in about 530 feet of water (Stonehouse 44). The ship lies in two pieces, a bow section and a stern section (Stonehouse 44). Out of the 29 passengers aboard there are no known survivors to this day. The cause of the sinking of the ship is still unclear, but they believe it is from massive flooding of the tunnel, ballast tank, and mainly the cargo hold due to the collapse of hatch covers (U.S. Marine Reports). At the time of the ships sinking waves were recorded of up to 25 feet which exceeded the ships zero freeboard which means the hatch covers cannot handle the pressure of the water (U.S. Marine Reports). It was also believed that there might have even been a grounding (U.S. Marine Reports).

The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald has been an important part of Michigan s history. There is a song written by Gordon Lightfoot about the sinking of the ship, Which is called the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald . There is also a play written by Shelley Russell named Holdin our own: the Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald.

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