Interesting Day for USCGA and USMMA folks...

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by scoutpilot, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot 5-Year Member

    Apr 29, 2010
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    For those not so privileged to grow up in the Great Lakes, I offer this tidbit of history which is likely of interest to USCGA folks, their USMMA brethren, and Gordon Lightfoot fans.


    Today marks the 35th anniversary of the wreck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. It is a wreck which has lived on in mythic proportions in the Great Lakes, due in part to Gordon Lightfoot's immensely popular, though wildly inaccurate, song about the event.

    Nov 10, 1975 - The account of the wreck of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald

    7:00 AM
    Weather report from the Fitzgerald.
    Winds are at 35 knots, waves of ten feet. This is the last weather report that the Edmund Fitzgerald will ever make.

    3:15 PM
    Captain Jesse Cooper, (J.C.) of the S.S. Arthur M. Anderson watches the Fitzgerald round Caribou Island and comments that the Fitzgerald is much closer to Six Fathom Shoal than he would want to be.

    3:20 PM
    Anderson reports winds coming from the Northwest at 43 knots.

    3:30 PM
    Radio transmission between the Fitzgerald and the Anderson:

    Capt. McSorley: "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have sustained some topside damage. I have a fence rail laid down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me til I get to Whitefish?"

    Capt. Cooper: "Charlie on that Fitzgerald. Do you have your pumps going?"

    Capt. McSorley: "Yes, both of them

    4:10 PM
    The Fitzgerald radios the Arthur M. Anderson requesting radar assistance for the remainder of the voyage.

    Fitzgerald: "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have lost both radars. Can you provide me with radar plots till we reach Whitefish Bay?"

    Anderson: "Charlie on that, Fitzgerald. We'll keep you advised of position."

    About 4:39 PM
    The Fitzgerald cannot pick up the Whitefish Point radio beacon. The Fitzgerald radios the Coast Guard station at Grand Marais on Channel 16.

    Between 4:30 and 5:00 PM
    The Edmund Fitzgerald calls for any vessel in the Whitefish Point area regarding information about the beacon and light at Whitefish Point. They receive an answer by the saltwater vessel Avafors that the beacon and the light are not operating.

    Estimated between 5:30 and 6:00 PM
    Radio transmission between the sea-going freighter Avafors and the Fitzgerald.

    Avafors: "Fitzgerald, this is the Avafors. I have the Whitefish light now but still am receiving no beacon. Over."

    Fitzgerald: "I'm very glad to hear it."

    Avafors: "The wind is really howling down here. What are the conditions where you are?"

    Fitzgerald: (Undiscernable shouts heard by the Avafors.) "DON'T LET NOBODY ON DECK!"

    Avafors: "What's that, Fitzgerald? Unclear. Over."

    Fitzgerald: "I have a bad list, lost both radars. And am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever been in."

    Avafors: "If I'm correct, you have two radars."

    Fitzgerald: "They're both gone."

    Sometime around 7:00 PM

    The Anderson, trailing the Fitzgerald, is struck by two huge waves that put water on the ship, 35 feet above the water line. The waves hit with enough force to push the starboard lifeboat down, damaging the bottom. Both waves move onward in the direction of the Fitzgerald.

    7:10 PM
    Radio transmission between the Anderson and the Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald is still being followed by the Arthur M. Anderson. They are about 10 miles behind the Fitzgerald.

    Anderson: "Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?"

    Fitzgerald: "Yes we have."

    Anderson: "Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you."

    Fitzgerald: "Well, am I going to clear?"

    Anderson: "Yes. He is going to pass to the west of you."

    Fitzgerald: "Well, fine."

    Anderson: "By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problem?"

    Fitzgerald: "We are holding our own."

    Anderson: "Okay, fine. I'll be talking to you later."

    Shortly after that transmission, the Fitzgerald entered a squall and was obscured from the Anderson's view and radar. When the squall cleared, there was no sign of the Fitzgerald. She would not be seen again until the wreck was located on November 17th in 500 feet of water.

    The cause of the sinking, despite official findings, is still a subject of vigorous debate. Broken hatch seals, rogue waves, and leakage from a suspected bottoming-out on Six Fathom Shoal are the among the best-held causes. Whatever the cause, every November 10th the Great Lakes airwaves are filled with Gordon Lightfoot's haunting account of the loss of 29 hands aboard the "Big Fitz."

    Here's a salute to the brave Mariners who ply the inland seas--the "shining, big-sea water" of Hiawatha--and to the courageous Coast Guardsmen who come to their aid in times of peril.
  2. sprog

    sprog 5-Year Member

    Mar 10, 2009
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    Inaccurate, yes. I still love that the guy in High Fidelity said, it's one of the best songs about death ever written. It is a fitting tribute to the mariners of the Great Lakes, both American and Canadian.

    nice post.
  3. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom 10-Year Member

    Jul 9, 2006
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    Oh gawddddddd you are making me feel downright ancient. I remember both well.

    Yep - the song is a classic. It is haunting and beautifully sung (even if it's about as accurate as that movie "Titanic" :wink:)

    The Wrech of the Edmund Fitzgerald
    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy.

    With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
    Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
    That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
    When the gales of November came early

    The ship was the pride of the American side
    Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
    As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
    With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

    Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
    When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
    And later that night when the ships bell rang
    Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

    The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
    And a wave broke over the railing
    And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
    T'was the witch of November come stealing.

    The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
    When the gales of November came slashing
    When afternoon came it was freezing rain
    In the face of a hurricane West Wind

    When supper time came the old cook came on deck
    Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
    At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
    He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

    The Captain wired in he had water coming in
    And the good ship and crew was in peril
    And later that night when his lights went out of sight
    Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    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.

    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.

    Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
    In the ruins of her ice water mansion
    Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
    The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

    And farther below Lake Ontario
    Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
    And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
    With the gales of November remembered.

    In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
    In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
    The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
    For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
    Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
    When the gales of November come early.

    Tonight when you have your after work beer; give it a raise for the 29 souls lost at sea November 1975.
  4. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot 5-Year Member

    Apr 29, 2010
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    An excellent choice for that beer would Great Lakes Brewing Company's Edmund Fitzgerald.
  5. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Apr 1, 2007
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    It's not clear why the ship sank, but a report by the U.S. Coast Guard at the time blamed the crew for the disaster, concluding they failed to fasten the hatches properly.

    In his 1976 song, Lightfoot speculated that "they might have split up or they might have capsized. They may have broke deep and took water.''

    But the maritime community has always struggled with the notion that a crew would be careless when they were well aware of the fierce weather conditions coming on Lake Superior that night.

    In a documentary by a Toronto film company that debuted earlier this year on History Television, a father-and-son diving team suggests the ship was in fact sunk by a rogue wave _ a massive wall of water that can reach up to 10 storeys high but was previously dismissed as a sailors' myth.

    In "Dive Detectives'' _ produced by Toronto-based Yap Films _ Mike and Warren Fletcher, who had access to recent high-quality footage that was not available to coast guard officials at the time, said clear images of the bottom of the ship debunked one popular theory that the Edmund Fitzgerald ran aground and was damaged.

    Their findings prompted Lightfoot to revise some his song's lyrics in future live performances. The recorded version was not changed.
  6. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot 5-Year Member

    Apr 29, 2010
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    I can vouch for the adjusted lyrics. We saw him live at the Ryman last spring.

    I just became 20 years older in everyone's mind.
  7. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

    May 3, 2010
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    A few years later under similiar conditions the collier SS Marine Electric went down off the Virginia coast. These sinkings resulted in an overhaul of inspections and seaworthiness criteria by the CG. An additional outcome was the creation of the CG rescue swimmer program because the Navy had to respond to the wreck since we did have swimmers.
  8. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

    Mar 4, 2007
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    Last edited: Nov 11, 2010
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006 5-Year Member

    Nov 25, 2007
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    I work with the author of that article AF. We call him "Doc".

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