November 10, 2015: Remembering the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on the 40th Anniversary of its Sinking
On November 10, 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and all 29 of its crew members were lost on Lake Superior during a fierce storm. The Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes when it made its maiden voyage in 1958, and to this date it is the largest freighter to have been lost on the Great Lakes. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the maritime tragedy made famous by Gordon Lightfoot’s tribute song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and there are a handful of places in Michigan where you can pay tribute to the lives lost. Several locations will hold memorials in the week leading up to the anniversary, while other sites on the list below have artifacts from the ship on display.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point: There are many artifacts on display from shipwrecks in the waters off of Whitefish Point at this museum 11 miles north of Paradise, but the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald is the most well-known piece in their collection. The bell was recovered by divers in 1995 and a replica was put in its place. Whitefish Point is the closest land in Michigan to the site of the wreck, approximately 17 miles offshore. The museum will hold a memorial beginning at 7 p.m. on November 10, which will feature the “Call to Last Watch” ringing of the bell 29 times for the lives lost and a 30th to honor all others lost on the Great Lakes.
Mariners Church in Detroit: Located at 170 E. Jefferson in the heart of downtown Detroit, this church tolled its bell 29 times in November 1975 to honor the crew of the Fitzgerald, a tradition that was broadened to include a reading of the names of the crew each year until 2006. From that year forward, the service has been broadened to include all who have been lost on the Great Lakes.
Dossin Great Lakes Museum: The bow anchor from the Fitzgerald, lost in the Detroit River on an earlier trip, is on display outside this museum on Belle Isle in Detroit. A Lost Mariners Remembrance is held here each year on the night of November 10th.
Museum Ship Valley Camp in Sault Ste. Marie: This retired Great Lakes freighter has been turned into a museum, and on display are lifeboats from the Fitzgerald. Photos, models and a film are among the other items visitors will find here.
Soo Locks: The “Fitz” became incredibly popular here, as Captain Peter Pulcer was known for broadcasting a running commentary as the ship transited through the Locks. The ship set seasonal records for cargo six different times, which gave visitors to the Locks many chances to see the majestic ship up close during the 1960s and 1970s.
SS Arthur M. Anderson: The last ship to have radio contact with the Fitzgerald, the Arthur M. Anderson was traveling the same route on November 10, 1975 and was also almost lost in the storm. This freighter still travels the Great Lakes to this day for the Great Lakes Fleet, and can be seen at the Soo Locks several times each shipping season.
To this day, many are fascinated by this tragedy due to the fact that no is sure exactly what caused the Fitzgerald to go down. Michigan is not the only state that still pays tribute to this great ship. The only time each year that the light at Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota (a 3 hour drive from Michigan/Wisconsin border) is turned on is on November 10th to honor the Fitzgerald, Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio honors the ship with its “Edmund Fitzgerald Porter”, and in Pancake Bay Provincial Park (Ontario, Canada) visitors can hike the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout Trail to Lake Superior and a view straight out to where the boat sank.