On February 1, 1957, the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, entered into a contract with Great Lakes Engineering works for the construction of the first "maximum sized" Laker ever built. The builder laid the keel of Hull 301 at its yard at Ecorse, Michigan, on August 7, 1957, and the vessel was launched on June 7, 1958. On September 22, 1958, EDMUND FITZGERALD was delivered to her owner. She was operated for her entire career under charter to the Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Company, Cleveland.
EDMUND FITZGERALD made a name for her self by setting a number of cargo records over the years. She was an extremely handsome boat and was well known to both casual and serious shipwatchers, notably as a result of the antics of her longtime master, Capt. Peter Pulcer, who did his best to entertain anyone who might be watching his vessel.
The only major work, apart from some stiffening of hull members, ever done on the FITZGERALD was the installation of a bowthruster in 1969 and conversion to oil fuel and the fitting of automated boiler controls over the winter of 1971-72.
The EDMUND FITZGERALD is, unfortunately, best known today for the tragic and violent manner in which she met her untimely demise. She cleared Superior, Wisconsin, on her last trip on November 9, 1975, with a cargo of 26,116 tons of taconite pellets consigned to Detroit Traveling down Lake Superior in company with ARTHUR M. ANDERSON of the United States Steel Corporation's Great Lakes Fleet, she encountered heavy weather and in the early evening of November 10th, suddenly foundered approximately 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay. Had she been able to manage those last few miles, she would have achieved the safety of calmer waters. All 29 of her crew, including Capt. Ernest McSorley who had commanded her since 1972, were lost and not one body has ever come ashore from the wreck. The broken hull of the steamer was located in 530 feet of water, the bow and stern sections lying close together.
The cause of the sinking is still a matter of controversy but, shocking as it is, the fact remains that the "FITZ" is gone. Her mangled lifeboats, mute testimony to her violent end, can be seen aboard the museum ship VALLEY CAMP at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
EDMUND FITZGERALD with a load of iron ore.
|BUILT:||Great Lakes Engineering Works, Ecorse, Michigan||GROSS REGISTERED TONNAGE:||13,632|
|HULL NUMBER:||301||REGISTRY NUMBER:||US 277437|
|LENGTH:||711.2||ENGINES||Steam Turbine 2 cylinder - 7,500 SHP|
|BREADTH:||75.1||ENGINE BUILDER:||Westinghouse Electric Corporation|
Upbound light on Lake Huron.