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River Rouge Historical Museum - SS Edmund Fitzgerald
River Rouge Historical Museum
rrmuseum48218@aol.com
SS Edmund Fitzgerald
Great Lakes Engineering Works

The Birth of a Legend...

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon on June 8th, 1958, as more than 10,000 people lined the banks of the Detroit River. They had come to witness the launching of the 729 ft Hull 301 at the Great Lakes Engineering Work in River Rouge, Michigan. Mrs. Edmund Fitzgerald, wife of the president of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and the ship's namesake, christened the brand new ship and at 12:34 pm after three attempts to break the champagne bottle and a collision with the pier when she entered the water.

For many of those in attendance, it was a spectacular sight that they would never forget. The shipyard workers, many River Rouge's own residents, who had toiled for hours to construct the "Big Fitz" felt a deep sense of satisfaction as the aniously watched the launch of this marvelous vessel. Being a prideful lot, they often endured long hours and harsh considtions during the vessel's construction. This was their crowing achievement and the beauty of their craftmanship was evident to all those present that day.

CLICK here to watch a video of the launch

CLICK HERE for more information and pictures of the Edmund Fitzgerald from the Dossin Museum on Belle Isle

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald...

 

The SS Edmmund Fitzgerald made headlines after sinking in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29. When launched on June 8, 1958, she was the largest boat on North America's Great Lakes and she remains the largest boat to have sunk there.

 

For seventeen years the Fitzgerald carried tactonite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota to iron works in Detroit, Toledo, and other Great Lakes ports. As a "workhorse" she set seasonal haul records six times, often beating her own previous record. Her size, record-breaking performance, and "DJ captain" endeared the Fitzgerald to boat watchers.

Carrying a full cargo of tactonite ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, the Edmund Fitzgerald embarked on her final voyage from Superior, Wisconsin (near Duluth), on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. En route to a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan, she joined a second freighter, the SS Arthur M Anderson. By the next day the two ships were caught in the midst of a massive winter storm on Lake Superior, with near Hurricane-Force winds and waves up to 35 feet (11 m) high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m. the Fitzgerald suddenly sank 530 feet (160 m) deep, approximately 17 miles (15 nautical miles; 27 kilometers) from the entrance to Whitefish Bay near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Although the Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank. Her crew of 29 all perished, and no bodies were recovered.

The site of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was located on November 14, 1975 just four days after her sinking. The area was surveyed by the 180 ft Coast Guard Cutter Woodrush, which was equipped with side-scan sonar.  The survey indicated two objects in close proximity to eachother, roughly about 300 feet in length resting at a depth of 530 feet below the surface. A "roughened" area between the objects was suggested to be cargo. Because of the depths involved and the reoccurring bad weather in the area this method of surveying was deemed inadequate and the Marine Board suggested contracting the project to Seaward, Inc. of Falls Church, Virginia.

Wreckage identified as that of the Edmund Fitzgerald was located in a position of 46 59.91 N' 85 06.6' W in 530 feet of water in eastern Lake Superior just north of the International Boundary in Canadian waters. This position correlates with the last position of the Edumund Fitzgerald as reported by the Anderson. The wreckage lies approximately 17 miles northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan. The wreckage consists of an upright bow section, an inverted stern section, and debris from a missing 200 foot midship portion. The bow section is 276 feet long incliined 15 degrees to port from the upright, extends from the stern to a location between hatches Nos. 8 and 9and is buried in mud up to the 28 foot draft mark.




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