Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | November 10, 2007

In Memoriam – November 10, 1975

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
-Gordon Lightfoot, from “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”

It was 32 ago years today that the most famous shipwreck on the Great Lakes took place. I was in the first semester of my first year of college when this awful event occurred.

I don’t remember much about it when it happened, but as I grew older and began to take an interest in boating, the Great Lakes, and the ships that ply the lakes, I began to do more reading about the “Fitz” and became captivated by her story.

There are several theories as to how the Fitz went down. A few of these are mentioned in Lightfoot’s ballad:

They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

The most compelling theory of her ghastly demise is that a huge wave overwhelmed the ship driving her bow-first to the bottom where she struck with such force that she snapped in two. The point in Lake Superior where the Fitz went down is 535 feet deep; the length of the Fitz was 729 feet. Imagine the sight on that dreadful night of a ship whose bow has smashed the bottom of the lake while her stern is sticking up nearly 200 feet above the surface!

However she went down, the Edmund Fitzgerald has become legend in the 32 years since that horrendous night. She has been immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot, and will be remembered forever by Great Lakes seafarers and those landlubbers for whom the Great Lakes have captured their imagination.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called “Gitche Gumee.”
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.

Click here for a line-by-line explanation of the song.

Below is a great video with the song.



  1. […] My posting last year regarding the “Fitz” is number nine on my all-time most read list.  That is probably because of the wonderful video that I gleaned from YouTube that presents Gordon Lightfoot’s Ballad, The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, against a backdrop of vintage footage of the Fitz. […]

  2. I saw a special on this “Draining the great lakes” & the theory I heard was there was a rogue wave. . Combined with the great length of the ship. .it nose dived and hit the bottom and broke apart..based on what they showed on the bottom. Check out that is quite amazing to me how things come together to allow certain results.

  3. Here is what my post was referring to…

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