edmund fitzgerald

When it launched in 1958, the 729-foot SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship sailing the Great Lakes.
user Greenmars / Wikimedia Commons

Of the thousands of shipwrecks that fill the Great Lakes, most people can name only one: the Edmund Fitzgerald.

It’s the last and the largest ship ever lost on the lakes.

This week marks 40 years since the Fitzgerald and its 29 crew members went down in Lake Superior.

But even this many years later, the story still captivates the public’s imagination.

 The Edmund Fitzgerald in 1971.
user Greenmars / wikimedia commons

What would it be like to have a long, useful live, but only be remembered by the way you die?

Such is the case with the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in a Lake Superior storm 40 years ago today.

But there’s a new documentary that focuses on the life of the Edmund Fitzgerald and what the ship did in her time on the Great Lakes.

The film is called A Good Ship and Crew Well Seasoned, and it’s produced by the Great Lakes Historical Society.

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald in May of 1975.
Bob Campbell / NOAA

I had a friend I never met in person.

His name was Mike Simonson and he was a reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio based in Superior.

Mike and I spoke often by phone when he filed stories for the Great Lakes Radio Consortium – the predecessor of The Environment Report.

Mike had done a lot of interviews and research on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He spoke with many people who are still personally connected to the ship. He was our “go-to-guy” whenever we looked back on the sinking.

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald in May of 1975.
Bob Campbell / NOAA

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.

Today's midwest storm
Screen grab from the Weather Underground / weatherunderground.com

The storm passing through the Midwest today has a similar look to the storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10th, 1975.

The 1975 storm had an extremely low pressure at its center, which generated winds similar to a category 2 hurricane. The storm in 1975 dropped to 978 millibars (mb) when it passed over James Bay in Ontario.