The Tragic Tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald: A Milwaukee-Connected Shipwreck that Inspired a Timeless Classic
The Edmund Fitzgerald is a name synonymous with tragedy. It was a colossal freighter that sank in Lake Superior on November 10th, 1975. All 29 crew members perished in the chilling waters of the lake. The tragic tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald has inspired countless books, documentaries, and songs that continue to captivate people to this day, including a timeless classic written by none other than Gordon Lightfoot- “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. But did you know that the ill-fated shipwreck had ties to Milwaukee? Let’s dive deeper into the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald and its Milwaukee connection.
The Edmund Fitzgerald was a Great Lakes freighter that was constructed in 1958 as the largest ship of its kind at the time. It was named after the president of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship was a workhorse: over its 17-year career, it transported millions of tons of iron ore from mines on Minnesota’s Iron Range to steel mills in Detroit, Toledo, and other ports.
On November 9th, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald set out on a routine trip from Superior, Wisconsin, to Detroit, Michigan, loaded with a record-breaking 26,116 tons of taconite pellets. The weather was looking bleak, with winds of up to 60 miles per hour and waves as high as 25 feet. Despite the conditions, the crew pressed on.
The next day, the ship disappeared from radar screens and didn’t respond to radio communication attempts. A U.S. Coast Guard search-and-rescue mission was launched, but all efforts to find the ship were in vain. It was later discovered that the Edmund Fitzgerald had sunk somewhere in eastern Lake Superior, about 17 miles from Whitefish Bay, taking all 29 crew members with it.
The loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald sent shockwaves through the Great Lakes shipping industry and the nation. It was the deadliest shipping disaster on the Great Lakes in over 30 years at the time, and the cause of the sinking is still officially unknown. There have been various theories over the years: some blame faulty hatch covers, others blame rogue waves, and still, others blame an accounting error that caused the ship to be overloaded.
The Milwaukee Connection
While the Edmund Fitzgerald was registered in Ohio and sailed out of ports in Michigan, the ship had several connections to Milwaukee. First, the freighter was constructed at Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Engineering Works shipyard, where it was launched on June 7th, 1958. Second, the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald was all members of the Seafarers’ International Union, which had a local Milwaukee chapter. Finally, one of the crew members, Bruce Hudson, was a Wisconsin native who had lived in Waukesha before starting his career on the Great Lakes.
The Edmund Fitzgerald’s connection to Milwaukee may not be well-known, but it’s an important part of the ship’s history that should not be forgotten.
The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald had a profound impact on the Great Lakes shipping industry and the nation as a whole. It sparked safety reforms and regulations that ensured the safety of crews and vessels on the Great Lakes. Furthermore, the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald has captured the imagination of people around the world. It has inspired books, documentaries, and songs that continue to keep the memory of the crew and the ship alive. Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” remains one of the most powerful and haunting tributes to the ship and its crew.
The tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a tragic one, but it’s also a testament to the courage and resilience of the men who sailed her. It’s a story that deserves to be remembered and passed down to future generations.
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In this blog post, we explored the tragic tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter that sank in 1975, taking all 29 crew members with it. We also discussed its Milwaukee connection and its lasting legacy. The story of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a powerful reminder of the dangers and the beauty of Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. #ENTERTAINMENT