Edmund Fitzgerald in 1971
Name: SS Edmund Fitzgerald
Owner: Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company
Operator: Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company of Cleveland, Ohio
Port of registry: United States
Ordered: February 1, 1957
Builder: Great Lakes Engineering Works of River Rouge, Michigan
Yard number: 301
Laid down: August 7, 1957
Launched: June 7, 1958
Christened: June 7, 1958
Maiden voyage: September 24, 1958
In service: June 8, 1958
Out of service: November 10, 1975
Identification: Registry number US 277437
Nickname(s): Fitz, Mighty Fitz, Big Fitz, Pride of the American Flag, Toledo Express, Titanic of the Great Lakes
Fate: Lost in a storm on November 10, 1975, with all 29 crewmembers
Status: Sank because of weather conditions
Notes: Location: 46°59.91′N 85°06.61′WCoordinates: 46°59.91′N 85°06.61′W
Type: Lake freighter
8,713 NRT (from 1969: 8,686 NRT)
729 ft (222 m) overall
711 ft (217 m) between perpendiculars
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draft: 25 ft (7.6 m) typical
Depth: 39 ft (12 m) (moulded)
Depth of hold: 33 ft 4 in (10.16 m)
Coal fired Westinghouse Electric Corporation steam turbine at 7,500 shp (5,600 kW)
Conversion to oil fuel and the fitting of automated boiler controls over the winter of 1971–72.
Carried 72,000 U.S. gal (270,000 L; 60,000 imp gal) fuel oil
Propulsion: Single 19.5 ft (5.9 m) propeller
Speed: 14 kn (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Capacity: 25,400 tons of cargo
SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29. When launched on June 7, 1958, she was the largest ship on North America's Great Lakes, and she remains the largest to have sunk there.
For 17 years Fitzgerald carried taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works in Detroit, Toledo, and other Great Lakes ports. As a "workhorse," she set seasonal haul records six times, often breaking her own previous record. Captain Peter Pulcer was known for piping music day or night over the ship's intercom while passing through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers (between Lakes Huron and Erie), and entertaining spectators at the Soo Locks (between Lakes Superior and Huron) with a running commentary about the ship. Her size, record-breaking performance, and "DJ captain" endeared Fitzgerald to boat watchers.
Carrying a full cargo of ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, she embarked on her ill-fated voyage from Superior, Wisconsin, near Duluth, on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. En route to a steel mill near Detroit, Fitzgerald joined a second freighter, SS Arthur M. Anderson. By the next day, the two ships were caught in a severe storm on Lake Superior, with near hurricane-force winds and waves up to 35 feet (11 m) high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m., Fitzgerald suddenly sank in Canadian (Ontario) waters 530 feet (160 m) deep, about 17 miles (15 nautical miles; 27 kilometers) from Whitefish Bay near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario—a distance Fitzgerald could have covered in just over an hour at her top speed. Although Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank; Captain McSorley's last message to Anderson said, "We are holding our own." Her crew of 29 perished, and no bodies were recovered.
Many books, studies, and expeditions have examined the cause of the sinking. Fitzgerald might have fallen victim to the high waves of the storm, suffered structural failure, been swamped with water entering through her cargo hatches or deck, experienced topside damage, or shoaled in a shallow part of Lake Superior. The sinking of Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the best-known disasters in the history of Great Lakes shipping. Gordon Lightfoot made it the subject of his 1976 hit song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" after reading an article, "The Cruelest Month", in the November 24, 1975, issue of Newsweek. The sinking led to changes in Great Lakes shipping regulations and practices that included mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, increased freeboard, and more frequent inspection of vessels.