Thursday 10 November 2011

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.

Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (1st verse), 1976.

Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" rose to number two on the pop billboard chart and he considers it to be the best song he has ever composed.  The songwriter's inspiration came from a Newsweek article by James R. Gaines titled "The Cruelest Month" written on November 24, 1975.   The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, the largest ship on the great lakes when it was launched in 1958, was a 729 foot freighter with a top speed of 26 kilometres per hour.  It had made many trips across the American-Canadian border by the mid-1970's.  In November of 1975, the "Mighty Fitz"  set out with a 26,000 ton cargo from Superior, Wisconsin to Detroit, Michigan when it was caught in a gale force snowstorm.  Accompanied by the Anderson, the two ships kept in contact for a time, the Fitzgerald's captain saying that they were caught in the worst storm he'd ever seen.  The freighter took on water and was fighting to stay afloat when it lost contact with the other ship, never to be heard from again.  When the blizzard subsided, the ship could not be found.  A service was held in Michigan for the lost crew, the church bell ringing 29 times for every soul who perished.  The Fitzgerald now lies in 530 feet of water 17 miles from Whitefish Bay.

Painting courtesy

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