The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, but singer Gordon Lightfoot says he plans to change the lyrics to his song, the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," after researchers concluded that a gigantic, 50-foot rogue wave -- not human error -- was responsible for sinking the ship.
The Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior, Wis., on the evening of Nov. 9, 1975, bound for Zug Island, near Detroit. The next day, it encountered a fierce storm and sank. Twenty-nine lives were lost -- the greatest disaster in the history of the Great Lakes. The U.S. Coast Guard concluded that the boat sank because the crew left the cargo hatches open, allowing the holds to fill with water.
In the show "Dive Detectives," a new series for History Television, a diving team deployed wave-generating technology to simulate the conditions faced by the Edmund Fitzgerald. The tests demonstrate how the force of the freak wave, crashing down on the midsection of the boat -- already low in the water because of its heavy cargo --- might have caused it to split in two.
Lightfoot said the conclusion is "definitive." Instead of singing "at 7 p.m. a main hatchway caved in," he'll sing "at 7 p.m. it grew dark, it was then, He said, 'Fellas, it's been good to know ya.' " Scripps Howard News Service
I am a little underwhelmed by this news story. I have never thought the tragedy of Fitzgerald in 1975 was due to human error, since I always regard the official report with whatever was in it was just perfunctory, duty-bound speculations not worth of much undue attention. Now this "new" wave-generating technology simulation is simply another speculation. We don't know what had happened, and no one can recreate the condition the Fitz encountered. Remember that there were other ships went through the same condition that night safely. So we did not know what was happened to SS. Edmund Fitzgerald that night, now over 35 years later, we still don't know what had happened that night. Mr. Lightfoot can certainly entitled to change his lyrics as he wishes. The fact is that there is nothing new in this new simulation/speculation effort. And there is just nothing we can do about it either! By the way there was a fabulous hindcast study by NOAA Weather Service scientists not long ago, showing the time and location where the Fitz lost was the worst spot at the worst time as far as the storm waves can be hindcasted for that night. That should be sufficient evidence showing that Fitz's tragedy was caused by waves more than anything else. Gorden Lightfoot's new lyric "at 7pm it grew dark" is really an under statement. I really could not see this new effort as reported, while commendable, had added anything new to the knowledge base!