Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Album: Summertime Dream (1976)
Charted: 40 2
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  • The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy
    With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
    Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
    That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the gales of November came early

    The ship was the pride of the American side
    Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
    As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
    With a crew and good captain well seasoned
    Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
    When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
    And later that night when the ship's bell rang
    Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

    The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
    And a wave broke over the railing
    And every man knew, as the captain did too
    T'was the witch of November come stealin'
    The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
    When the gales of November came slashin'
    When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
    In the face of a hurricane west wind

    When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'
    "Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya"
    At seven PM, a main hatchway caved in, he said
    "Fellas, it's been good to know ya"
    The captain wired in he had water comin' in
    And the good ship and crew was in peril
    And later that night when his lights went outta sight
    Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

    Does any one know where the love of God goes
    When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
    The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
    If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
    They might have split up or they might have capsized
    They may have broke deep and took water
    And all that remains is the faces and the names
    Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

    Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
    Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen
    And farther below Lake Ontario
    Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    With the gales of November remembered

    In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
    In the maritime sailors' cathedral
    The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
    For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
    Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
    When the gales of November come early Writer/s: Gordon Lightfoot
    Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 63

  • Andrew P Horton from NhGordon's second ship disaster song. Actually FIRST. He sang 'Ballad of the Yarmouth Castle' back in 1969.
  • Curtis from St LouisRe: inaccuracies -- it's called poetic or artistic license. Enough said.
  • Larry from OhioYes but there are were a lot of fact wrong on this song.
    They weren't going to Cleveland and the church wasn't a musty Ole hall and no evidence suggest the main hatcheway gave in, how much did he make off this inaccurate song and if the church bell chimes 29 times for each man on the Fitz that a heck of a lot of bell ringing
  • George Pope from Vancouver, CanadaMark Yard from London; it's explained above by the good folk at songfacts; the hatch giving i was the original theory; disproved by subsequent invedtigtions (a dive to the ship's remains for an inspection); Mr. Lightfoot (my fellow Canadian) changed the lyrics to reflect these new findings.
  • Mark Byard from LondonA lovely song, made even more poignant when I realised it was a real ship and crew. I'm not a sailor and I'm intrigued as to why the line about the hatch was changed. How can it be misconstrued as human error
  • Rod from Los AngelesEvery time I hear, "Does anyone know where the love of God goes, When the waves turn the minutes to hours?," tears well up in my eyes and a chill runs down my back. What powerful images, emotions and thoughts condensed into two lines.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyForty-four years ago today on November 14th, 1976, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Top 100 chart, for the two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for both those weeks was "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" by Rod Stewart..
    And six days later on November 20th "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" reached #1 {for 1 week} on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart, the following week it was replaced at #1 by "Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart...
    Between 1970 and 1982 the Orillia, Ontario, Canada native had eleven records on the Top 100 chart, four made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, "Sundown", for one week in June of 1974...
    Besides the above "Edmund Fitzgerald" and "Sundown", his two other Top 10 records were "If You Could Read My Mind" {#5 in 1970} and "Carefree Highway" {#10 in 1974}...
    Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. will celebrate his 82nd birthday in three days on November 17th, 2020...
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of the Top 10 on November 14th, 1976:
    At #3. "Love So Right" by the Bee Gees
    #4. "Muskrat Love" by The Captain and Tennille
    #5. "Disco Duck (Part 1)" by Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots
    #6. "The Rubberband Man" by the Spinners
    #7. "Rock'n Me" by the Steve Miller Band
    #8. "Just To Be Close To You" by the Commodores
    #9. "Beth"/"Detroit Rock City" by Kiss
    #10. "Do You Feel Like We Do" by Peter Frampton
    May the 29 sailors R.I.P.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenLightfoot's comments (from his "Songbook" collection): "The inspiration was a Newsweek article about the wreck. These sorts of things have happened on the Great Lakes for many years, and I thought I had another shipwreck song in me after having done 'Marie Christine' years before. I'm proud it's been written. It's been a very educational and interesting experience, for sure. I have gotten to meet a lot of the people who were related to the men on the Edmund Fitzgerald; periodically they have functions, which I attend whenever I can. It's been a real-life experience for me."
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrFor those of you who don't know, Edmund B. Fitzgerald's father was actually William Fitzgerald. There was an "Edmond Fitzgerald", Edmund B.'s uncle, who himself was a captain on a ship. Proof is right here: http://irishamerica.com/2010/10/the-sinking-of-the-ss-edmund-fitzgerald/
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 22nd 1976, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" " by Gordon Lightfoot entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #70; and on November 14th, 1976 it peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} and spent 21 weeks on the Top 100...
    Not surprisingly, but deservingly, it peaked #1 on the Canadian Singles, Country, and Adult Contemporary charts...
    Between 1970 and 1982 he had eleven Top 100 records; four made the Top 10 with one reaching #1; "Sundown" for one week on June 23rd, 1974...
    The two weeks the "Edmund Fitzgerald" was at #2, the #1 record for both those weeks was "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" by Rod Stewart...
    Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr. will celebrate his 76th birthday in three months on November 17th {2014}.
  • Ward from Wilmington Nc, NcOne of the greatest story songs of all time. A perfect folk song.
  • Cliff from Oakdale, NyThis is just one example of the perfectly written folk song ,very elaborate, very sad and unforgettable, based on the true story of that great freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. A great song all around.
  • Wendell from Milton, PeThis is the greatest story song of all time in my opinion. the song was the last big hit for Gordon although he did hit the top 40 with the Circle is Small.
    I am also proud that Gordon lived on PEI for a while. His song Summer side of life was written about our second city on PEI. Wendell Milton PEI.
  • Brad from Archer Lodge, NcFebruary 20, 2011 is a sad day, as Lightfoot's lead guitarist, Terry Clements, passed away. Fortunately, I was able to see him and Lightfoot perform many times and will have treasured memories of each of these performances. Terry was a wonderful guitar player who made playing seem so effortless. I will always remember Terry sitting on his stool to the left of Gord smiling at the crowd while playing many complex chords and riffs while never missing a lick. He was so talented, he didn't even have to look at his fingers! He just played away, smiling the whole time. I also feel very lucky and fortunate to have met Terry after a couple of shows and was able to get his autograph. These autographs now mean more to me than ever. Terry will be sorely missed. R.I.P. and Godspeed Terry.
  • Duane from Tampa, FlThe first time I heard this song I was a young boy in MI. My family and I were at a sporting goods store in Ann Arbor and when the song came on the radio by the second verse every one stopped what they were doing and just stood still and listened, you could here a pin drop in the store. By the end of the song there was not a dry eye in the store. That was the first time I realized how much power music can have.
  • Brad from Archer Lodge, NcAt a concert recently in Lakeland, Florida, Gord mentioned that a History Chanel series called "Dive Detectives" recently did an episode on the Edmund Fitzgerald. Through historical documentation, and an exstensive search of the wreck itself, they determined that the cause of the wreck was most likely a rouge wave that hit the ship on the surface. Estimates were that this rouge wave could have been anywhere from 30 to 40 feet high. This, contradicted the Coast Guard's original investigation which claimed that a rear hatchway was left open by the crew thus causing the ship to take on excess weight and sink. Because of this, Gord changed his lyric about the main hatchway caving in (At 7 p.m. the main hatchway caved in). He changed it to "at 7 p.m., it got dark, it got dim". He further explained that purists would hate the fact that he changed the lyrics, however, he just couldn't allow the lyrics to be incorrect. He stated that as a result of this new investigation, his theory about the hatchway "just didn't hold water" after all these years. Just an interesting tidbit that I picked up at one of Gord's concerts recently.
  • Dane from Lima,ohio, FlA beautiful but haunting song...I really like how G.L. took a historical event with names & places & turned it into a song.
  • Ted from Flat Rock, OhOne of my best friends in 6th grade in Toledo, Brian Spangler, his stepdad was on board when she went down. He had come to school the next day before it was confirmed all were lost and he was REAL quiet, VERY unusual for him. He told us his dad's ship had gone down & they were waiting for any news. I still get a chill every time I hear this song.
  • Emily from Around Chicago, IlI'm too young to have lived when the Fitzgerald sank, but it still sends a pang in my heart. I heard that the ship was hit by a very large wave and was broken in two. To the people who are deeply effected by this tragedy I send my sorrows and condolences. Long live the beautiful Edmund Fitzgerald and its crew in our hearts!
  • Steve from London, OnLalah from AK writes:

    I grew up in Sarnia, Ontario at the base of Lake Huron where it empties into the Saint Clair river. On warm summer days we'd ride our bikes to a little roach coach under the Blue Water Bridge and buy fish and chips, then watch the ships pass by. We moved to the US in 1975 and I remember when I heard about the Fitz going down with all hands I was the only one in my class to cry. The land-locked have never felt the power of a Great Lakes storm or seen those magnificent, long ships sitting low in the water with full loads. But Gordon Lightfoot's song conveys much of what I remember sitting under that bridge.

    I grew up in Sarnia too, and spent a lot of time at the Bluewater Bridge just watching the big freighters sail on by, and sampling the french fries that came from the chip wagon that used to park under the bridge. Sunset was always the best time to go. Ahh, the memories.

    The chip wagon is gone now, replaced by a trailer that sits across the road from the parking spots under the bridge. The local skyrats (seagulls) have become a real nuisance and quite aggressive in their attempts to cadge french fries from people.

    One of my uncles, who grew up in nearby Corunna, told me that when he was in his early teens, he and his friends used to go the river with their inner tubes and wait for the Edmund Fitzgerald to pass by.

    Once it had passed and was at a safe distance, they'd all jump in with their inner tubes and let the wake carry them down the river.
  • Raymond Thatcher from Detroit, MiHi, I remember well the date.. I was getting ready to graduate Navy boot camp. When the Chaplin told me my Dad called.. My Uncle once served on her.. My Dad sailed the lakes for a couple of years.. We used to go watch her come up and down the river.. She was and is still a Lady..
    I've felt the witch of west off the coast of Nova Scotia.. She's nasty.. Thank God I was on a ship built out of Milwaukee !! Blessings Ray
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmMy wife lived at the time at the south end of Lake Michigan, and she and her ex-husband had to drive through a bad storm to get to the hospital to deliver her baby. My stepson was born the night the Fitzgerald sank.
  • K from B, NyEdmund B Fitzgerald was a part owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. The ship was named for his father.
  • James from Yucaipa, CaI've loved this song since it was first released. Gordon Lightfoot is one of the all time great balladeers.

    Based on what I've learned about the wreck from visiting the martime museum in Duluth, MN, it sounds like he took some license with the facts (but hey, who's complaining!)

    From what I understand, the ship was actually loaded at the ore docks at Duluth, MN, not "some mill in WI" (although, there are ore docks just on the other side of the harbor that are in the state of WI.) It wasn't bound for Cleveland, it was bound for Detroit. Also, the "old cook" was in his early 50s. Perhaps old compared to the rest of the crew, maybe? The place where the bell was rung was not a cathedral, but a small chapel that serves the Great Lakes mariners.

    Still a great song, and I don't blame Mr Lightfoot for making some changes to make it rhyme.

  • Dan from Whitehall, PaThis is still the best poetic song of all time, i play it constantly,and i am 62, although i am far from perfect,the word definitley is spelled wrong, see i read the entire page...
  • Lisa from Eveleth, Mni've loved gordon lightfoot all my life, and this is a beautiful song, but i like spanish moss better. i live in northern mn, and if you ever go to duluth, stop at the mariners museum, down by the lift bridge, its super-cool.
  • Jared from Boise, Idreminds me of The Perfect Storm
  • P from Chicago, IlI have heard that "Superior never gives up her dead" refers to the fact that the water in Lake Superior is so cold that bodies don't go through the usual decomposition and therefore don't float to the surface. A little grisly, but interesting.
  • Don from Marquette, MiI am from Marquette MI. and I grew up listening to this song and learning about the wreck, everyone who was brought up around lake superior knows that you respect her, what Lightfoot says about lake superior is very true. Also a few members of the family who was aboard the ship live here in Marquette. I was born only blocks from Lake Superior it is very beautiful but very deadly, also I love to watch the ships load up here.
  • Stuart Ciske from Sun Prairie, WiI used this song once while teaching HS English as an example of an "epic poem" from modern times in contrast to the epics of Homer, etc. Also used the Red Headed Stranger stuff by Willie Nelson.
  • Stuart Ciske from Sun Prairie, WiI used this song once while teaching HS English as an example of an "epic poem" from modern times in contrast to the epics of Homer, etc. Also used the Red Headed Stranger stuff by Willie Nelson.
  • Kelley from Hickory, KyMy wife grew up in Duluth and used to tend bar in Superior in the mid-70s. She didn't know any of the crew members but did know their friends and families of the local guys. She says that when word of the Fitzgerald going down came in that the bar was total silence for minutes; something that almost never happens in a bar.
  • Ashley from Carlisle, PaMy dad is a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan...hence, so am I. I got us tickets to see him in Harrisburg, PA last April...when they did "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (as they do in every show), I got chills. Great song, and I was so happy to be able to hear it live with my dad.
  • Paul from Marysville, WaI saw that National Geographic show about divers recovering the bell. They actually replaced it with another one which had all 29 names of the crew members inscribed on it.

    Also, they said when the Fitz was launched, it created a much larger wave than anticipated. One of the onlookers was so shocked he suffered a fatal heart attack on the spot.
  • Nathan from From The Country Of, CanadaThe discovery channel investigated the wreckage and concluded it was one of 3 rogues waves that sank it. Great song, by a great songwriter/singer.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaA lot of factual recounting here about what happened etc. Not too much really about the meaning and lyrics of the song. Stew in Tulsa actually has something interesting to say about it.
  • Stew from Tulsa, OkOf the many wonderful lines in this song is "Where does the love of God go when the waves turn the minutes to hours?"
    This line has returned to my consiousness for many years and stands out among all song lines.
    Stew, Tulsa, OK
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhIn the 1960's I briefly worked on the 550-foot-long bulk carrier David P. Thompson, painting things and mostly trying to stay out of the way. We carried rock salt to Green Bay and limestone to Detroit and picked up coal in Toledo, twelve thousand tons at a time. It was an interesting world, and I saw lots of other ships. The Edmund Fitzgerald may well have been among them.

    We got caught in a sudden summer storm--I think it was a tornado--in the harbor in Detroit, and waves began to break over the ship, which was normally as stable as a parking lot. Scared the daylights out of me.

    It is a great song. Anyone who has lived on the Great Lakes respects them, and there is love there, too. Poor guys. Could have been me.
  • Bridget from Paradise, MiIt is a great song that immortalized the crew of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. It is the sad truth that there is a mountain of misinformation about the Fitz, much of it deliberate. The following You Tube vidos show actual footage of the Fitz Wreck and her bell:

    1)Operation Taconite on the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    2) The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Historical Documents
    3)Save the Fitz Bell
    4)Who Really Wanted the Fitz Bell
    5)"Trash even on the Fitzgerald site"
    6)Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Dive #241 - Part 1
    7)Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Dive #241 - Part 2
    8)Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Dive #241 - Part 3
  • Jay from Leamington, CanadaYes Dan from Fort Collins... the "fitz" was loaded with iron ore to unload at the U.S. Steel mill at Zug Island on the Detroit river which you can easily see when you cross the Ambassador bridge from Windsor Ontario into Detroit Michigan.

    And yes being a canuck and having the great lakes in my blood this song is no doubt the best of it's genre !!!!!!

    Jay, Leamington, Ont.
  • Darrell from EugeneIf you knew someone who died on the Edmund Fitzgerald or are related to someone who died onboard the "Fitz", stay away from amiright.com. Every so often, I see parodies of this song that are, among other things, disrespectful for those who died, mocking of the same people or even ridiculing Bodie Miller, of all people! If you care about the Edmund Fitzgerald even a little bit, I offer the same advice.
  • Dylan from Port Orange, FlGreatest song EVER written about the Great Lakes. Bar none.
  • Aaron Edward Sarka from Seward, AkWhen I lived in michigan i took a trip to whitfish lighthouse in the UP. The bell from the ship is there. I know live in alaska but every time i hear this song it takes me back home.
  • David from Mahtomedi, MnOn a recent motorcycle trip around Superior, I pulled into the Sault Ste Marie locks as the Arthur M. Anderson was locking through. Wham!! It hits you in the face, the Wreck of the Fitzgerald. Lovers of Superior are constantly reminded that the Lake, not man is charge. No other song captures the relationship and mystery of shipping on the big one!
  • Onnie from High Point, NcI Remember this accident from when I was 11 years Old, I loved the Song and have found a nice site I'm sure you all will want to see. http://www.corfid.com/gl/wreck.htm
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkI grew up in Sarnia, Ontario at the base of Lake Huron where it empties into the Saint Clair river. On warm summer days we'd ride our bikes to a little roach coach under the Blue Water Bridge and buy fish and chips, then watch the ships pass by. We moved to the US in 1975 and I remember when I heard about the Fitz going down with all hands I was the only one in my class to cry. The land-locked have never felt the power of a Great Lakes storm or seen those magnificent, long ships sitting low in the water with full loads. But Gordon Lightfoot's song conveys much of what I remember sitting under that bridge.
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnThe "Edmund Fitzgerald" of the ship's name was actually the son of the man who ran the corporation that owned the ship. He named the ship after his son. In the 1980s, the son himself had grown to be a successful businessman, and was CEO of a Canadian telecommunications company called Northern Telecom--later called Nortel. He was a bit embarrassed to have his namesake sunk in this tragedy. Thank you, Dad.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThirty years after the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, the song is still a classic. It tells the story of what happened on that stormy November 10. Living in Minnesota, it's a big story up in the Duluth-Superior area and there are several books published and a musical based on the play Ten November.

    "In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed. In the Maritime Sailors Cathedral.

    The church bell chimed 'till it rang 29 times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald." Will likely be the theme for the 10th when the chuch remembers the 29 men who perished 30 years ago.
  • Georgi from Southern, Mi"At the request of family members surviving her crew, Fitzgerald's 200 lb. bronze bell was recovered by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society on July 4, 1995. This expedition was conducted jointly with the National Geographic Society, Canadian Navy, Sony Corporation, and Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The bell is now on display in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum as a memorial to her lost crew." quote from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website: http://www.shipwreckmuseum.com/fitz.phtml
    We visited the Museum over the weekend--a very sobering event. There was a video presentation about the recovery of the bell. The bell-ringing ceremony was especially moving...a crew members name was read then a member (or members) of his family would ring the bell. The 30th toll of the bell was in honor of all the other lives lost on the Great Lakes. A replica of the bell with the names of the crew inscribed on it was taken down to the wreck to replace the original. On another note, if you go the the Mariners' Church of Detroit website:http://www.marinerschurchofdetroit.org/ you'll see that it's also referred to as The Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.

  • Cory from Superior, WiBeing from Superior Wisconsin where the Fitzgerald was loaded with iron ore this song means a great deal to me. I also know a few of the families who had crew members on board. I also worked at the facillity where it was loaded and knew at least one man who took part in the loading. It also happened to sink on my brothers birthday. Gordon Lightfoot had performed many times in this area and that song of course got the most attention. Several local bands developed their own versions of this song and it is played locally often.
  • Billy from Plymouth, NhAn excellent song, a fitting memorial to the men of the Fitz & all those lost to the waves since time immemorial. I only wish I could have heard Stan Rogers perform it! G.L. Does an wonderful job, & this is first among equals in his repetoire, but Stan Rogers was especially suited to nautical songs. If anyone knows of a record with Stan Rogers singing The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, PLEASE email me! Pemigewassett@yahoo.com.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScWhat a beautiful poetic song. I heard a male choir perform and do an arrangement of it, and theirs was great too.
  • James from Schoolcraft, MiNo, Dan, the doomed laker was downbound for Cleveland.
  • Martin from Accrington, EnglandThe first time I heard this song, I was sitting in the desert during the Gulf war 1991 - the war was over and UK forces were spread over a wide area. I had tuned my pocket radio into a US radio station - as they generally played better music that the UK station . Anyway , the US Navy had dedicated the song to the Iraqi Navy. I did not know the title of the song , or the artist , but it haunted me. Years after searching for this song I eventually found it . Brilliant song . One of my all time favourites, and it still haunts me to this day.
  • Doug from Minneapolis, MnNearly 20 years on, and I still get goosebumps every time I hear it - bringing me right back to that terrible day in November, 1975. That's one powerful song!
  • Jordan from Grand Forks, NdThe ship was headed to Cleavland afterunloading at Detroit to dry dock for the winter.
  • Elrond47 from Hamilton, CanadaWhile they used to ring the bell of the Old Mariner's Church for the men lost, some years after the sinking the ship was found, and the bell they ring anually now is the ship's bell salvaged from the Fitz herself. They only ring it 29 times total, one for each man, not 29x for each man. It was sevral years after the sinking (and the release of this song) that the ship's bell was recovered, and the first time they rang it, the 29th ring which was honoured to Lightfoot for writing this song, which had beomce hugely popular since the sinking. (I'm not sure what year all this happened in - late 80s?)
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiawhat a great song ,Gordon Lightfoot you did well , my 7 year old son is fascinated by it and when i play it in the car he sings along to it.

    A great story.
  • Ken from Lasalle, CanadaI have been a student of the Fitzgerald for a long time. I have read several books on it, attend the yearly mass at Mariners Church in Detroit, met Capt. Bernie Cooper the master of the Arthur M. Anderson (the ship following the Fitzgerald the night whe went down) and the families of the men lost that night. Here is what I know.
    On a sunny afternoon on the 9th of November, the 729 foot Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior Wisconsin heavy with 26,918 long tons of iron ore (taconite) pellets. She was bound for the steel mills of Zug island, just off Detroit (and a mere 10 minute boat ride from my home). Shortly after leaving, she made radio contact with the Arthur M. Anderson, a sister ship, soon to leave the same port, and bound for the steel mills of Gary, Indiana. Eyewitnesses recall that it was an unseasonably beautiful day, and recall seeing the Fitz pass with off duty staff sunning theirselves on the Fitz's alway's pristine decks. They were the last to see the ship afloat. On November 9 at 7 p.m. the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a gale warning for Lake Superior. In a gale, the wind speeds range from 34-40 knots. The NWS predicted east to northeasterly winds during the night, shifting to NW to N by the afternoon of November 10. At approximately 10:40 p.m. the NWS revised its forecast for eastern Lake Superior to easterly winds becoming southeasterly the morning of the 10th. At about 2:00 am November 10 the NWS upgraded the gale warning to a storm warning (winds 48-55 knots) with a prediction of "northeast winds 35 to 50 knots becoming northwesterly 28 to 38 knots on Monday, waves 8 to 15 feet". Around 2 a.m. the Captains of the Anderson and Fitzgerald discussed the threatening weather and decided to change their route. This safer route would take them northward, toward the coast of Canada. The northern route would protect them from the waves that the storm generated. Literally speaking, the weather had changed from a calm Dr. Jeckyl, to an out of control Mr. Hyde. At 3 am the winds were reported as coming from the northeast at 42 knots. The Fitzgerald and Anderson proceeded together, the Fitzgerald ahead of the Anderson. They had radio contact and the Anderson's radar located the position of the Fitzgerald.
    At 7 am. the storm passed over Marquette MI and started across Lake Superior. On the afternoon of November 10 a wind shift was evident. At 2:45 p.m. the winds had backed to NW and were 42 knots. Steady winds at 43 knots and waves of up to 12 and 16 feet were reported by the Anderson. At around this time the Fitzgerald contacted the Anderson and reported "a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged and a list". A list is when a ship leans to one side. Also around this time, the storm's fury had closed the Sault Ste. Marie locks. What had happened was the wind had carried the Fitz's radar away and she was flying blind. Popular consensus was that she had drifted dangerously close to Six Fathom Shoals off the coast of Michipicoten Island, Lake Superior, and opened a welded seam in the hull. The Fitzgerald was equipped with two 7,000 gallon per minute pumps, and four 2,000 gallon per minute pumps. McSorley (the captain of the Fitzgerald) was asked if he had his pumps running. He replied that he had them all going. And yet the ominous list was still present. He was putting off as much water he was taking on. Not good in a raging hurricane. Late on the afternoon of the 10th, the captain of the Fitzgerald made radio contact with another ship, the Avafors, A Swedish ship anchored in the relatively calm safety of Whitefish Bay. They reported that they "had a bad list, had lost both radars, and was taking heavy seas over the deck in one of the worst seas he had ever been in." Captain McSorley was a seasoned sailor of the Great Lakes with 44 years of experience.
    "...At seven p.m. a main hatchway caved in
    he said 'fellas it's bin good to know ya'
    The captain wired in he had water comin' in
    and the good ship and crew was in peril
    and later that night when 'is lights went out of sight came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

    At 7 p.m. the Anderson made radio contact with the Fitzgerald and had her on their radar. When asked how the Fitzgerald was making out they replied "We are holding our own". This was around 7:10 p.m. Shortly afterwards the Fitzgerald disappeared from the Anderson's radar screen.

    This phrase of the song, while romantic, makes it sound as if the crew knew they were doomed. In reality the sinking of the Fitzgerald was very rapid and it is likely they did not know the seriousness of their condition. Indeed, after the wreck 2 severely damaged life boats were found. The conditions of these lifeboats suggests that no attempts were made to leave the ship. No distress signals were ever issued. Not a single body was found, nor recovered. The Fitzgerald now rests, broken in 3 pieces in 529 feet of water, some 15 miles outside Whitefish Bay, in Canadian waters. She has been documented and photographed. Human remains have been located and left to rest at the families request, and it has been put forth that the site remain private, and off limits. I understand that commercial vessels to this day swing at least one nautical mile to avoid sailing overtop the resting site of the once mighty Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot read the story in McLeans Magazine (A Canadian publication) while on a flight, and wrote the song in a short time.

  • Richard from Colorado Springs, CoDefinately one of the most poetic songs around. I couldn't believe it lost in the Grammys. I can't believe a lot of things from those shows. Don't watch them ,now....
  • Dan from Fort Collins, CoSome factual inaccuracies in the song: First, although the Fitz was indeed leaving with iron ore pellets from Superior, Wisconsin, it was headed to Detroit, not Cleveland; Second, the song suggests that the crew knew they were about to sink and perish - in fact, the storm and waves that finally sank the Fitz (it had been taking on water for some time - were likely sudden and swift, and the crew were likely in the water before they knew they were in grave danger. Finally, the story about the church in Detroit is true, but it is called the Old Mariner's Church, not the "Maritime Sailor's Cathedral". Notably, each year on November 10, the anniversary of the wreck, the bell of the church is still rung 29 times for each crew member on the Fitz, none of whom were ever recovered.
  • Dan from Fort Collins, CoThe last verse of the song:
    "Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    In the rooms of her ice water mansions.
    Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
    And farther below Lake Ontario
    Takes in what Lake Erie can send her.
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    With the gales of November remembered." Being from Detroit, this is one of the most poetically accurate descriptions of the Great Lakes I have ever heard!

  • Lisa from A Town In, PaIn Detroit, in front of the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral there is a sign that tells about the song.
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