The final voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald started November 9, 1975 in ~ the Burlington northern Railroad Dock No.1, Superior, Wisconsin. Captain Ernest M. McSorley had actually loaded her through 26,116 long tons of taconite pellets, make of handle iron ore, heated and rolled into marble-size balls. Departing Superior around 2:30 pm, she was soon joined by the Arthur M. Anderson, which had actually departed 2 Harbors, Minnesota under Captain Bernie Cooper. The 2 ships were in radio contact. The Fitzgerald being the faster took the lead, through the distance between the vessels varying from 10 come 15 miles.

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Aware that a structure November storm entering the good Lakes from the good plains, Captain McSorley and also Captain Cooper i agreeed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, wherein they would certainly be protected by highlands on the Canadian shore. This took them between Isle Royale and also the Keweenaw Peninsula. Castle would later on make a turn to the south-east to at some point reach the sanctuary of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been issued in ~ 7 pm on November 9, upgraded come storm warnings early on in the morning that November 10. While conditions were bad, through winds gusting come 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had frequently piloted your vessels in comparable conditions. In the at an early stage afternoon the November 10, the Fitzgerald had passed Michipicoten Island and was pull close Caribou Island. The Anderson was just approaching Michipicoten, around three miles turn off the West finish Light.

Captain Cooper maintained that that watched the Edmund Fitzgerald pass much too nearby to six Fathom Shoal come the phibìc of Caribou Island. He could plainly see the ship and also the beacon ~ above Caribou ~ above his radar collection and can measure the distance in between them. He and also his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the danger area that shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald native sight, clearly shows 17 mile ahead on radar.

At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have actually a fence rail down, 2 vents shed or damaged, and also a list. I’m checking down. Will certainly you stay by me till I acquire to Whitefish?” McSorley was checking under his rate to enable the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, “Yes, both of them.”


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“The Wreck site II” by David Conklin: accessible online in the Shipwreck coast Museum Store.


As the afternoon wore on, radio interactions with the Fitzgerald came to navigational information but no extremely alarming reports were available by Captain McSorley. At around 5:20 afternoon the crest of a tide smashed the Anderson’s starboard lifeboat, making the unusable. Captain Cooper report winds from the NW x W (305 ) in ~ a secure 58 knots v gusts come 70 knots, and seas of 18 come 25 feet.

According come Captain Cooper, around 6:55 pm, he and the males in the Anderson’s pilothouse feel a “bump”, feeling the delivery lurch, and also then turn to watch a monstrous wave engulfing their whole vessel indigenous astern. The wave operated its means along the deck, crashing ~ above the back of the pilothouse, steering the bow that the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson simply raised up and shook herself off of all the water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave as with the very first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those 2 waves head under the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those to be the two that sent out him under.”

Keeping Watch

Morgan Clark, very first mate of the Anderson, kept watching the Fitzgerald ~ above the radar set to calculation her street from some other vessels near Whitefish Point. He kept losing sight the the Fitzgerald top top the radar indigenous sea return, an interpretation that seas to be so high castle interfered v the radar reflection. Very first mate Clark speak to the Fitzgerald one critical time, about 7:10 pm:

“Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have actually you confirm down?”

“Yes, us have.”

“Fitzgerald, we are about 10 mile behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles every hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead the us. Therefore the target would certainly be 9 mile on front of you.”

“Well,” reply Captain McSorley, “Am i going to clear?”

“Yes, the is walk to happen to the west of you.”

“Well, fine.”

“By the way, Fitzgerald, just how are friend making out with your problems?” asked Clark.

“We space holding ours own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talk to you later.” Clark signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” that the Fitzgerald kept gaining obscured through sea return. And around 7:15 pm, the pip was shed again, yet this time, did not reappear. Clark referred to as the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There to be no answer.

Captain Cooper contacted the other ships in the area by radio asking if anyone had seen or heard from the Fitzgerald. The weather had actually cleared dramatically. His composed report states:

“At this time i became an extremely concerned around the Fitzgerald – couldn’t view his lights as soon as we must have. I then referred to as the william Clay Ford come ask the if my phone was putting out a an excellent signal and also if maybe the Fitzgerald had rounded the allude and remained in shelter, ~ a an adverse report I referred to as the Soo coast Guard since I was sure something had actually happened to the Fitzgerald. The shore Guard were at this time trying to situate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

With mounting apprehension, Captain Cooper referred to as the coastline Guard as soon as again, about 8:00 pm, and firmly express his worry for the welfare the the Fitzgerald. The shore Guard then initiated its find for the absent ship. Already the Anderson had actually reached the safety and security of Whitefish Bay to the relief of all aboard. But the coast Guard dubbed Captain Cooper earlier at 9:00 pm:

“Anderson, this is group Soo. What is your current position?”

“We’re down here, about two miles off Parisienne Island appropriate now…the wind is northwest forty to forty-five miles right here in the bay.”

“Is the calming under at all, execute you think?”

“In the bay the is, but I heard a pair of the salties talking up there, and they wish they hadn’t gone out.”

“Do you think over there is any kind of possibility and also you could…ah…come around and go ago there and do any type of searching?”

“Ah…God, i don’t know…ah…that…that sea the end there is tremendously large. Ah…if you want me to, ns can, yet I’m not going to it is in making any kind of time; I’ll be happy to make two or 3 miles an hour going back out that way.”

“Well, you’ll have to make a decision as to whether you will be hazarding your vessel or not, yet you’re more than likely one that the just vessels right now that can obtain to the scene. We’re walking to shot to call those saltwater vessels and also see if lock can’t maybe come around and probably come ago also…things watch pretty poor right now; that looks like she might have separation apart in ~ the seams prefer the Morrell go a couple of years back.”

“Well, that’s what i been thinking. But we were talk to him about seven and he said that every little thing was walking fine. He stated that he was going along choose an old shoe; no difficulties at all.”

“Well, again, perform you think you could come about and go ago and have actually a look at in the area?”

“Well, I’ll go back and take it a look, but God, I’m fear I’m walk to take it a hell the a beating out there… I’ll revolve around and also give ‘er a whirl, but God, ns don’t know. I’ll offer it a try.”

“That would be good.”

“Do you realize what the conditions are out there?”

No reply from the coastline Guard. Captain Cooper tries again.

“Affirmative. From what her reports space I have the right to appreciate the conditions. Again, though, I have to leave that decision approximately you as to whether it would certainly be hazarding her vessel or not. If girlfriend think you have the right to safely go back up come the area, I would certainly request the you carry out so. But I need to leave the decision approximately you.”

“I’ll offer it a try, yet that’s all I have the right to do.”

The Anderson turned out to be the primary vessel in the search, taking the lead. V the ship pounding and rolling badly, the crew that the Anderson discovered the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats and also other debris yet no authorize of survivors. Just one various other vessel, the william Clay Ford, had the ability to leave the security of Whitefish bay to sign up with in the find at the time. The shore Guard launched a fixed-wing HU-16 plane at 10 pm and also dispatched two cutters, the Naugatuck and the Woodrush. The Naugatuck arrived at 12:45 pm on November 11, and also the Woodrush landed on November 14, having actually journeyed every the way from Duluth, Minnesota.

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The coast Guard conducted considerable and thoroughly search. Top top November 14, a U.S. Navy aircraft equipped v a magnetic anomaly detector situated a strong contact 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point. During the adhering to three days, the coast Guard cutter Woodrush, utilizing a sidescan sonar, situated two large pieces of wreckage in the exact same area. An additional sonar inspection was performed November 22-25.