Remembering the Mystery of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald

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By Felicity Bosk

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank on the evening of Nov 10, 1975. It was the largest Great Lakes ship to sail at the time, and the largest to have ever sunk in Lake Superior, and still to this day, no body is 100 percent certain why.

All 29 crew members aboard died when the ship was caught in a hurricane force storm. No distress signals had been made. Captain Ernest M. McSorley’s last message was “we are holding our own.”

The Fitzgerald made it’s last departure on Nov. 9 from Superior, headed for Detroit, carrying 26,116 tons of iron ore. It went down 17 miles from Whitefish Point, Mich.

The display of archived material regarding the SS Edmund Fitzgerald at the JDH Library. Photo by Felicity Bosk | Explore Superior

The display of archived material regarding the SS Edmund Fitzgerald at the JDH Library. Photo by Felicity Bosk | Explore Superior

Each year, people discuss and wonder again what happened on Nov. 10, 1975? Why did it sink, and why was there no distress call?

The National Transportation Safety Board in 1978 reported it likely sank due to “sudden massive flooding of the cargo hold due to the collapse of one or more hatch covers” but also reported that there was no definitive explanation for the ships sinking.

There are no diving expeditions to the ship today as it is sunken on the Canadian side of Lake Superior and the Canadian Government called off any expeditions of it to let those who died rest in peace.

In 1978, UWS professor Bill Frost, with the help of students, built a 12 foot memorial on Barkers Island in commemoration of the sailors lost. “SS Edmund Fitzgerald Day” was declared on the 19th anniversary of the ships sinking.

The Jim Dan Hill Library at UWS has a display on its first floor from its historical archives, including newspapers, photographs, and a manifest of those who were on board (pictured below).

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