45th Anniversary of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


The SS Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the best-known shipwrecks in Lake Superior, having even been immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot. The freighter sunk on November 10th 1975, 45 years ago today.

Launched on June 7th, 1958, the Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes. It was built by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was named after the company’s president and chairman of the board.

On her final voyage, the Edmund Fitzgerald, led by Captain Ernest M. McSorley, left Superior Wisconsin with a load of iron ore and was heading a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan along with the freighter Arthur M. Anderson. While en route, a storm developed on Lake Superior causing gale-force winds of up to 58 MPH.

At 3:30 pm, Captain McSorley radioed saying his ship had sustained some damage and was taking on water. Around 4:10 pm, the Edmund Fitzgerald lost radar navigation. The Arthur M. Anderson attempted to direct the ship towards the safety of Whitefish Bay, but they were unsuccessful. The last transmission from the Edmund Fitzgerald was at 7:10 pm saying they were holding their own. They sank moments later. All 29 lives on board were lost.

The day after the wreck, the Mariners’ Church in Detroit rang its bell for each life lost. The church continued to hold an annual memorial to honor the Edmund Fitzgerald crew until 1996, when they expanded to include all lives lost on the Great Lakes.

The Crew:
Ernest M. McSorley, 63, Captain, Toledo Ohio
John H. McCarthy, 62, Mate, Bay Village, Ohio
James A. Pratt, 44, second mate, Lakewood, Ohio
Michael E. Armagost, 37, third mate, Iron River, Wisconsin
Thomas Bentsen, 23, oiler, St. Joseph, Michigan
Thomas D. Borgeson, 4l, maintenance man, Duluth, Minnesota
John D. Simmons, 60, wheelsman, Ashland, Wisconsin
Eugene W. O’Brien, 50, wheelsman, Toledo, Ohio
John J. Poviatch, 59, wheelsman, Bradenton, Florida
Ranson E. Cundy, 53, watchman, Superior, Wisconsin
William J. Spengler, 59, watchman, Toledo, Ohio
Karl A. Peckol, 20, watchman, Ashtabula, Ohio
Mark A. Thomas, 2l, deck hand, Richmond Heights, Ohio
Paul M. Rippa, 22, deck hand, Ashtabula, Ohio
Bruce L. Hudson, 22, deck hand, North Olmsted, Ohio
David E. Weiss, 22, cadet, Agoura, California
Robert C. Rafferty, 62, steward, Toledo, Ohio
Allen G. Kalmon, 43, second cook, Washburn, Wisconsin
Frederick J. Beetcher, 56, porter, Superior, Wisconsin
Nolan F. Church, 55, porter, Silver Bay, Minnesota
George Holl, 60, chief engineer, Cabot, Pennsylvania
Edward F. Bindon, 47, first assistant engineer, Fairport Harbor, Ohio
Thomas E. Edwards, 50, second assistant engineer, Oregon, Ohio
Russell G. Haskell, 40, second assistant engineer, Millbury, Ohio
Oliver J. Champeau, 4l, third assistant engineer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Blaine H. Wilhelm, 52, oiler, Moguah, Wisconsin
Ralph G. Walton, 58, oiler, Fremont, Ohio
Joseph W. Mazes, 59, special maintenance man, Ashland, Wisconsin
Gordon F. MacLellan, 30, wiper, Clearwater, Florida

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