LAKE SUPERIOR, MI - It was 45 years ago this month that the Edmund Fitzgerald was being loaded with 26,000 tons of iron ore, prepped for what would become her doomed final voyage. Once the largest ship on the Great Lakes, the 728-foot Fitzgerald left Superior, Wis. at 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 9, 1975. Her crew planned to cross Lake Superior to deliver the load at Detroit's Zug Island.
But a day later, she was gone, broken in two and lying on the lake's bottom in 530 feet of water, all 29 souls aboard lost.
Gordon Lightfoot's poignant song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" helps keep alive the memory of what's become the Great Lakes' most famous shipwreck.
But her captain and crew were also sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. They hailed from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and beyond.
As we remember them, here are the highlights of the Fitzgerald’s final trip and the fierce, hurricane-like storm that sank her.
Investigators would later say that in the big freighter’s last hour, she battled sustained winds of 60 mph, and waves higher than 25 feet. She may have even encountered “The Three Sisters” - a trio of rapidly-hitting waves that are higher than the others around them.
One thing the marine experts agree on: The Fitzgerald was in the “worst possible place” as she tried to make for the shelter of Michigan’s Whitefish Bay.
NOV. 9, 1975
2:15 p.m. The Edmund Fitzgerald, captained by Ernest McSorley, finishes loading 26,116 tons of taconite in Superior, Wis., and departs for Detroit's Zug Island. The storm that would sink the ship is gathering force over Kansas and is on a path toward Lake Superior.
GORDON LIGHTFOOT'S TRIBUTE to the 29 lost sailors: