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1975

Edmund Fitzgerald sinks in Lake Superior

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior, taking all 29 crew members with her.

At the time of its launch in 1958, the 729-foot-long freighter was the largest and fastest ship on the Great Lakes. The Edmund Fitzgerald began its last journey on November 9, 1975, carrying 26,116 tons of iron-ore pellets. The next day, the ship and her crew met a storm with 60 mph winds and waves in excess of 15 feet. Captain Ernest McSorley steered the ship north, heading for the safety of Whitefish Bay, but the ship’s radar failed, and the storm took out the power to Whitefish Point’s radio beacon, leaving the Fitzgerald traveling blind. In the heavy seas, the vessel was also taking on a dangerous amount of water. Another ship, the Anderson, kept up radio contact with the Fitzgerald and tried to lead it to safety but to no avail.

Just after 7 p.m. on November 10, the Fitzgerald made its last radio transmission. Presumably, the ship, which was taking on water, was forced lower and lower into the water until its bow pitched down into the lake and the vessel was unable to recover. None of the 29 men aboard survived.

The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies under 530 feet of water, broken in two sections. On July 4, 1995, the ship’s bell was recovered from the wreck, and a replica, engraved with the names of the crew members who perished in this tragedy, was left in its place. The original bell is on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in Michigan.

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