I was remiss in sharing with you on Monday the anniversary of the tragic loss of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, an event that has caught my imagination and held it for some time. I am not alone in my interest; the ore carrier's loss has inspired several books and, of course, that song.
Why the loss stands out in an area of the world that is no stranger to heavy weather and shipwrecks is not easy to pin down. Shipwrecks that claim their entire crew are a rare event in this modern age. Shipwrecks on the Great Lakes are rarer still, at least in the last three decades. Perhaps it is this: even now, in an age of radar, global positioning systems, and radio, nature can still overpower our attempts to master her. Even now, with all that man's ingenuity can offer, the Lakes can still batter and pound a behemoth of a ship and drag her down to the bottom.
The story of the Great Lakes and their November furies is a tale worth telling - and fortunately some gifted writers have already done so. There are two books I commend to you:
- Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Michael Schumacher, which is an excellent retelling of the life and loss of the ship;
- White Hurricane by David G. Brown, which is the story of the November 1913 gales which killed 250 sailors, sank twelve lakers, and drove another 30 ships ashore. This book makes you appreciate how terrible it can be out on Lake Superior in a gale.
The video below includes Gordon Lightfoot's haunting song, and scenes of the Fitzgerald in happier days, and her subsequent grave.