Monday, 10 November 2014

The Anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

"The Captain wired in he had water coming in And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight, Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Gordon Lightfoot
© 1976 Moose Music, Inc.

November 10th was the 39th anniversary of the wreck of the iron ore carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald with the loss of all 29 on board just off Whitefish Point, Michigan on Lake Superior. While weather played a definite role, the exact details of the sinking of this massive, majestic ship remains a mystery even today. It went down quickly and with very little warning, taking the 29 mariners with it.

The sinking was caused in part by a strong fall storm, often referred to as a "November Witch". These are powerful storms that develop over the Rockies or plains and sweep across the central Great Lakes. Mariners named the storm such because of the howling winds that sounded eerily like the cackle of a witch. They feature big swings in temperature, snow and rain and intense winds up to hurricane force at times. The 1975 storm was extreme, with 20-foot waves on Lake Superior and winds gusting over 50 knots. The severe weather was confined to an area along the immediate trajectory of the storm and especially rough in the waters of eastern Lake Superior, exactly where the Edmund Fitzgerald was traveling. It was a case of being in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. The storm was known as a weather bomb with rapidly dropping pressure from 1000mb over Kansas to 978mb over James Bay within 24 hours. The rapid intensification caught the ship and its crew and other ships in the area without warning. The ship sank quickly and catastrophically, virtually disappearing off the radar screens of nearby vessels in a matter of seconds. Over the years, memorial services are often held near Whitefish Point, Michigan, not far from the final resting place of the majestic ship and her crew of 29 brave men. The ship is in 162 metres of water just inside the Canadian boundary.

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