Edmund Fitzgerald sank 35 years ago today (with audio)

Nov 10, 2010

My cousins spent their summers along the St. Mary's River on Neebish Island. The lake freighters steam by just a stone's throw away from the shore.

One of their favorite things to do was to get the freighters to "give them a salute" - or blast their huge signal horns to the kids waving along the shore.

Some boats obliged. Others did not. They tell me the Edmund Fitzgerald was one of the friendliest freighters on the Lakes. The ship was always willing to give the kids "one long and two shorts" from its signal horn.

Around six months after the picture above was taken, the Edmund Fitzgerald sank on Lake Superior in a bad November storm. All hands were lost.

Mike Simonson did a piece for The Environment Report that chronicled what the storm was like that night. 

That night, Captain Dudley Paquette was shipmaster of the lake carrier Wilfred Sykes…

"We were really out right in the middle of the lake. Just huge seas, 30-35 foot seas. I was completely awash and I was on a super ship. I was registering 70, 75 knots steady with gusts to 100. Huge seas, I was completely awash. Water was flying over the top of my bridge."

In his piece, we also hear from Captain Jesse Cooper. Captain of the SS Arthur M. Anderson.

In this recording on the night of the wreck, Captain Cooper is asked by the Coast Guard to turn around a look for survivors of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

Reporter Mike Simonson found that recording in the archives at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Canal Park and Museum.

Despite his concern, Captain Cooper brought his vessel around and headed back into the storm, but no survivors were found. 29 sailors died that night.

Here's a tribute video by Joseph Fulton: