Lake Superior, Great Lakes

Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot

That good ship and crew
Was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November
Came early Read full Lyrics
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald in the St. Mary's River in May, 1975
True to its name, Lake Superior is the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is also the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, and the largest freshwater lake in the world in terms of surface area. Fed by over 200 large and small rivers, Lake Superior is so massive that you can empty all the water from the other Great Lakes into it and it still would not even be close to full.

The idea for the song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" came from an article that appeared in a November issue of Newsweek titled "The Cruelest Month." It inspired Gordon Lightfoot to write, compose and perform this song to retell the tragic tale of the bulk carrier S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald on that eventful day at Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. To date, the sinking of S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald remains the most infamous shipping disaster to have occurred on the Great Lakes.

The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes, and had operated on various freight routes since its maiden voyage on June 8, 1958. There was little warning for what was to follow when she first reported running into some trouble during a gale on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Without even so much as a distress signal, the ship sank suddenly, taking with it all 29 crew members on board.
Lake Superior frozen, Great Lakes
An explanatory note for the rather macabre line, "the lake, it is said, never gives up its dead": This is not so much a legend as it is a scientific fact. In general, the very cold temperature in Lake Superior means that there are no bacterial populations within the lake. Therefore, bodies that are submerged in the water will sink to the bottom without the gaseous by-products from bacteria decomposing and breaking down the corpse. Furthermore, from the data available at the time, Lake Superior recorded unusually low water temperatures in the period around 1970. None of the bodies of those on board Edmund Fitzgerald were recovered, although dive expeditions to the shipwreck did spot the body of a man. As for the ship, due to its enormous size and the speed with which it sank, the main body broke into two sections, resting around 150 feet apart at just over 450 feet in from the surface.

The Big Fitz, as the freighter was affectionately known, sank 17 miles off Whitefish Point, and this is a region notorious for shipping accidents. In fact, the body of water in the southern shores of Lake Superior between Grand Marais, Michigan, and Whitefish Point mark out a region known as the "Graveyard of the Great Lakes." These days, the shipwrecks are safely protected from other shipping routes through the establishment of the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve. Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald Songfacts
Browse all Songplaces

Comments: 5

  • Ms. Bertie Mary Lainey from Newfoundland, CanadaI cannot listen to this song without sadness creeping in my heart for the 29 poor souls who lost their precious lives.
    I cannot even imagine what those hard working men went through before they sailed home to the higher power only known
    To the dearly departed. There is also no one better to re-tell it's story other then Mr. Gordon Lightfoot. I get chills still today
    When I see that dear man preform this song. I can only hope in my mind that the Caption & Crew are all in "Divine Peace for all Eternity.... God bless each and everyone of them aboard that ship for when they left to go out on the water they never ever expected that was gonna be their "Final Home" & were to never return to their families & Love Ones Ever Again.... God Speed ...❤️
  • Saphryn from Batchawana Bayi wasnt born yet but my grammas lanlord saw it sank.
  • S. Sims from IndianaYour article cites the date of the maiden voyage as June 8, 1975. That is definitely incorrect as the Edmund Fitzgerald's maiden voyage was Sept. 24, 1958. Thank you.
  • Gabrielly from Lmvvqcdoevvlyifz i reemebmr the first time i heard this song. my dad introduced it to me when i was about 8 or 9(i'm 28 now). me and him listened to it in the dark. he had me imagine what it would have been like on that fateful day. i always think of that when i hear this song. still gives me goosebumps.
  • Joel from Sault Ste. Marie, OntarioI very much like the amount of information given about this song. Growing up after the wreck of the fitzgerald, but nearby where it happened, the story has always fasinated me. I do however have to point out that the map isn't properly labeled as the edmund fitzgerald sank near whitefish bay in lake superior and this map has it labelled near lake michigan.
see more comments