“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.” – Gordon Lightfoot
Well, as we prepare to move into December, I found myself reflecting on famous events that have happened in the month of November. One of the events that always comes to mind for me when I think of November is the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Although, I have to admit that my only attachments to the event are the Gordon Lightfoot song and also the mystery surrounding the ship’s sinking. The story is such a tragic one.
I have watched some history channel programs on the ship but the item that really hit home to me was the book “Mighty Fitz” by Schumaker. In the “Might Fitz”, Schumaker does a wonderful job of bringing to life the 29 crew men of the Edmund Fitzgerald (all of whom perished in the wreck). He recounts stories from the fellow dock workers, family members, and friends allowing the readers to get a clear image of the goals, dreams, personalities, families, and even the way the men on the ship interacted with each other.
The reader gets to know the men on the ship so well that one can almost hear the voice of the captain as he radios with the captain of the Arthur Anderson relating the problems. I can see the strong, proud Captain radioing his last transmission “We are holding our own” before the ship vanishes to the bottom of the sea.
While no one will ever know for sure exactly what caused the ship to sink on that stormy night in November, the life that “Mighty Fitz” brings to the story, really hits home to me. There were several details that I learned about the sinking of which I was not previously aware. I was surprised to learn that the reason the Arthur Anderson went back to look for the men on the Edmund Fitzgerald, following the sinking, was because the coast guard was busy saving another ship and wouldn’t go out themselves.
Since there were no survivors, much of what happened on the Edmund Fitzgerald the day that the ship sank remains a mystery. Ironically, a lot of the Great Lakes Shipwrecks share those features. From the mysterious vanishing of the Lambton, which disappeared with all on board and has never been found, to the strange sinking of the Cypress, with only one survivor and no clear explanation of why the ship sank, to the lunacy of the Henry B. Smith, whose captain decided to leave port during the middle of the worst snow storm the great lakes had ever seen and took the ship and its 25 men to the bottom of the sea. The Great Lakes is filled with fascinating and unexplained shipwrecks many of which have still never been discovered!
So, if like me, you want to learn more about the famous Great Lakes shipwrecks or just enjoy unsolved mysteries then I recommend that you go to your library and grab the book “Mighty Fitz”. And, you can also learn more about the mysteries wrecks of the Great Lakes by visiting the “Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
”. What is your favorite shipwreck story, whether in the Great Lakes or somewhere else?
“All that remains are the faces and names,
Of the wifes and the sons and the daughters.”-Gordon Lightfoot