Nov. 11 marked the 35th-year anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes freighter known as the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. The 729-ft. freighter was fully loaded with ore when it left Superior, Wisconsin, on Nov. 9, 1975. Shortly thereafter, a harsh storm arose and the great ship sunk about 17 miles off of Whitefish Point in Canadian waters. According to the Record Eagle, there is still much fascination with the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, as the reasons for this tragedy still remain largely a mystery.
This song was immortalized in a Gordon Lightfoot song titled “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald;” it is a truly haunting song. Upon hearing the song, I am transported to Whitefish Point. Sometimes referred to as a graveyard of ships, Whitefish Point has had more vessels lost in this part of Lake Superior than in any other part.
Whenever I hear the Gordon Lightfoot song, I am once again standing there at Whitefish Point. The sounds of the water hitting the shore are clear in my ears. I can smell the mix of sand and water and feel the cool November air as it blows through my hair. I stare out at a body of water as beautiful as it is unforgiving. The sounds of Lightfoot’s song are being played over a loudspeaker and I stare out into the water and can feel the power of the words.
On the grounds there, there is a museum that is dedicated to this tragic event, with parts of the wreckage and pieces of history. The stories of the men on board and the heaviness of what they went through is everywhere there. I walk through the museum and get a sense of what things must have been like, but it doesn’t prepare me for the feeling of standing on that beach of sand, looking out onto the waters at the location where the ship gave up its fight.
The song chronicles the events that transpired that night in a fictional sense combined with what is known; what truly happened that day still remains largely a mystery. There are many theories that abound, but what remains is that 29 men lost their lives that day.
As these words to the song spill out over the open air, “Superior, they say, never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early,” I am chilled and haunted by the memories of the men who have lost their lives at sea. And one cannot help but shed a tear as the haunting sound of a bell ringing 29 times is heard as the sounds of the waves brush the shore.
Record Eagle – Edmund Fitzgerald Still Fascinates
Exploring the North – Whitefish Point