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 Passing beneath the Blue Water Bridge

 Gene Onchulenko collection

Historic Fleet Gallery Feature - Edmund Fitzgerald

EDMUND FITZGERALD, US.277437, Lake Bulk Freighter built in 1958 by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, MI as Hull #301. Her keel was laid in August, 1957. Launched June 7, 1958 as a) EDMUND FITZGERALD for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Columbia Transportation Co., Cleveland, OH, mgr.). 729'loa, 711'lbp x 75'x 39'; 13,632 GRT, 8713 NRT, 26,600 dwt. Powered by a 7,500 shp Westinghouse Electric Co. double reduction geared, cross-compound steam turbine, and two coal-fired Combustion Engineering water tube boilers, with a total heating surface of 13,288 sq.ft. Engine and boilers built in 1958. Rated service speed: 14 knots (16.1 mph). Sea trials occurred on September 13th, and she was commissioned on September 22nd. The FITZGERALD's first cargo of taconite pellets was loaded September 24, 1958 at Silver Bay, MN. for Toledo, OH. A Bird-Johnson diesel powered bow thruster was installed in 1969 resulting in a decrease in net registered tonnage to 8686. The FITZ collided with the Canadian steamer HOCHELAGA at the mouth of the Detroit River, May 1, 1970, suffering slight damage at hatches 18 and 19. During the 1971-72 winter lay up at Duluth, MN., she was converted from coal to oil-fired boilers which were automated at that time, and the fuel tanks were installed in the space that was occupied by the coal bunkers. Also a fire fighting system and a sewage holding tank were installed at that time. Minor cracking at the keelson to shell connection was repaired by installing additional stiffening on the keelson in 1970 and additional welding was required in 1973-74. The EDMUND FITZGERALD foundered on Lake Superior during a severe storm November 10, 1975 at approximately 7:10 pm about 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, MI at position 470'N by 857'W in Canadian waters. The FITZGERALD was running downbound loaded with 26,116 tons of taconite ore pellets from Superior, WI for Detroit, MI. During the height of the storm in 70 knot winds, 25 foot waves combed her deck decreasing her normal 12 feet of freeboard. Several times tons of water washed over her deck and challenged her buoyancy. Her sinking was so quick that no radio message was given though she had been in frequent visual and radio contact with the steamer ARTHUR M. ANDERSON. The FITZGERALD disappeared from sight in a furious snow squall and then from radar. Captain McSorley of the "FITZ" had indicated he was having difficulty and was taking on water. She was listing to port and had two of three ballast pumps working. She had lost her radar and damage was noted to ballast tank vent pipes and he was overheard on the radio saying, "don't allow nobody (sic) on deck." McSorley said it was the worst storm he had ever seen. All 29 officers and crew, including a Great Lakes Maritime Academy cadet, went down with the ship, which lies broken in two sections in 530 feet of water. Surveyed by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1976 using the U.S. Navy CURV III system, the wreckage consisted of an upright bow section, approximately 275 feet long and an inverted stern section, about 253 feet long, and a debris field comprised of the rest of the hull in between. Both sections lie within 170 feet of each other. The EDMUND FITZGERALD was removed from documentation January, 1976. The National Transportation Safety Board unanimously voted on March 23, 1978 to reject the U. S. Coast Guard's official report supporting the theory of faulty hatches. Later the N.T.S.B. revised its verdict and reached a majority vote to agree that the sinking was caused by taking on water through one or more hatch covers damaged by the impact of heavy seas over her deck. This is contrary to the Lake Carriers Association's contention that her foundering was caused by flooding through bottom and ballast tank damage resulting from bottoming on the Six Fathom Shoal between Caribou and Michipicoten Islands. The U.S. Coast Guard, report on August 2, 1977 cited faulty hatch covers, lack of water tight cargo hold bulkheads and damage caused from an undetermined source.


Overall dimensions
Length 729'00"
Beam 75'00"
Depth 39'00"
Capacity (tons) 26,600 tons


St. Marys River.

Unloading in Toledo. Bill Watzlawek

Toledo 1965 George Blum

Close up at the Soo Locks. R. LeLievre

Fitzgerald and Reserve in lay-up. Capt. D.G. Metz

Deck view Capt. D.G. Metz

Fitzgerald's bell on display at the Ship Wreck Museum. Rob Farrow

Another view

Life boat display

Painting of the Fitzgerald.

The painting shows what Capt. Bud Robinson experienced on Nov. 10, 1975 as First Mate on the Tadoussac. The painting displays the Fitz after the eye of the storm passed, from what Capt. Robinson experienced that afternoon. The Tadoussac crossed the Fitzgerald and Anderson's wake above Michipicoten Island as they proceeded towards the North Shore.

The Tadoussac made the passage safely and proceeded on to Silver Bay. Over the radio that evening he heard the Coast Guard reports that the Fitzgerald was missing.  Capt. Robinson's gallery

Copyright MHSD. All Rights Reserved. No image may be duplicated for any reason with out written permission.

From the Society's 1993 calendar.
She is shown unloading at Great Lakes Steel on Zug Island - in a photograph which has been documented as the last photograph ever taken of "The Fitz" before here untimely loss on Lake Superior. Paul C. LaMarre, Jr.

Edmund Fitzgerald by Bob Campbell

 Ready to load coal into her fuel bunker at the C&O #1 Coal Dock. This view was taken in the late sixties. Jim Hoffman

Backing away from the C&O Ore Docks in 1973 bound for Silver Bay, Minnesota to load ore for a return trip to Toledo. Jim Hoffman 

August 1975 on the St. Marys River. Roger LeLievre

Anchored in the St. Mary River. R. LeLievre

Upbound at the Soo. R. LeLievre

St. Marys River. R. LeLievre

Stern view. R. LeLievre

Passing Detroit. Roger LeLievre

Ready for launch. Sid B. Ferriss Collection, courtesy Wade P. Streeter.

Another view.

Close up.


Detroit prior to commissioning in early
Sept. 1958. John McCreery

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