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Friday, November 10, 2006

Remembering the Fitz

November 10 of 2006 is come and almost gone at this writing. The major news a score and eleven years ago is all but forgotten around here. I am a little disappointed not to find any mention of SS Edmund Fitzgerald in the Detroit News today. May be the reporter that used to write to commemorate the Fitz around this time yearly had retired and the new generation of reporters are probably too young to remember. I think I did hear Gordon Lightfoot’s singing on radio early this morning. At any rate, I am happy to come across this article by Patt Abrahamson, a free lance writer, in the Daily Press of Escanaba, Michigan that still remembers November 10, 1975 and the Fitz from a rather personal perspective. This admirable article superbly remembered the Fitz’s last trip:

On her last trip, the Fitzgerald cleared Superior, Wis., Nov. 9, 1975. She was carrying a load of taconite pellets for delivery to Detroit. Traveling closely behind was the Arthur M. Anderson. The boats encountered a massive winter storm with high winds and waves over 16 feet. The Soo Locks had closed because of the storm.

During the afternoon of Nov. 10 the Fitzgerald reported a minor list developing and top-side damage, including loss of radar, but indicated no serious problem. She slowed down to come within the range of receiving the Anderson’s radar data: The Anderson, for a time, guided the Fitzgerald toward the safety of Whitefish Bay.

Then the last communication came. It was 7:10 p.m. when Anderson notified Fitzgerald of being hit by two freak waves that were heading Fitzgerald’s way and asked how she was doing. Earnest McSorley, captain of the Fitzgerald, reported, “We are holding our own.”

A few minutes later, the Fitzgerald sank. No distress signal was ever received. Ten minutes later the Anderson could neither communicate with Fitzgerald or detect her on radar. At 8:32 p.m. captain of the Anderson informed the Coast Guard of his concern for the boat.

A search was launched for survivors. Initially, the search consisted of Anderson and the freighter SS William Clay Ford. The efforts of a third freighter were hampered by the weather. A Coast Guard buoy tender, Woodrush, was able to launch within 21/2 hours, but took a day to arrive at the scene. The search recovered debris that included lifeboats and rafts, but no survivors.

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