Encyclopedia Of Detroit

S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald

One of the most famous ships ever to sail on the Great Lakes, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was built in 1957 and early 1958 by Great Lakes Engineering Works. The ship was christened on June 7, 1958 and set off on its maiden voyage on September 24th of that same year.

At the time of her christening, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes with a length of 729 feet and a weight of 13,632 tons when empty. She was named for the new chairman of the board of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

She sailed largely without incident until September 6, 1969, when she hit ground near the Soo Locks, causing internal and external damage to the ship. On April 30, 1970, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald once again found trouble on the Lakes, when she collided with the S.S. Hochelaga. Less than 5 months later, on September 4, 1970, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sustained more damage after hitting a lock wall.

During the early 1970s, additional damage from a series of incidents continued to damage the ship’s exterior and interior. On January 7, 1974, the ship lost her bow anchor near Belle Isle in the Detroit River. This anchor was later recovered and is now on exhibit at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.

On the morning of November 9, 1975, the ship was loaded with taconite pellets and set off from Superior, Wisconsin bound for Zug Island in Detroit. In gale force winds and a blinding snow storm, sometime after 7pm on the following day, November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior near Whitefish Bay. There were no survivors; 29 men perished and are entombed with her.

In 1976, singer Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the ship and its crew in his haunting ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” On July 4, 1995, the ship’s bell was recovered from wreck and is now on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

 


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