The Edmund Fitzgerald song written by Gordon Lightfoot about what happened the night of November 10, 1975 when the freighter ship, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, sunk in a storm in Lake Superior.
The Edmund Fitzgerald was 729 feet long and when she was built she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes. She had a crew of 29 men who all perished when she sank.
In 2010 Gordon Lightfoot, the composer, changed one line of the words to the Edmund Fitzgerald song because a Canadian company had found evidence that it was not because of a crew error that the ship had sunk, it was simply due to the waves.
Many years ago this was the song that my parents used as a great example of what a historical ballad is.
This summer my family took a vacation to northern Michigan and knowing this song made it all the more interesting. One of the days we went over to Whitefish Point which is about a 2 hour drive from where we were staying in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Whitefish Point is the tip of land where Lake Superior meets Whitefish Bay. If you've ever heard Gordon Lightfoot's song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald you've heard about Whitefish Bay. Lake Superior is notoriously dangerous especially in November which was when the Fitzgerald sank, but Whitefish Bay is much more calm. Even when we were there in June the bay was noticeably more calm.
Many ships have sunk in Lake Superior and to remember them there is a shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point. In the museum they have the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald.
After it sank, divers took down a bell that was inscribed with the names of the 29 men who had lost their lives and brought up the original bell to be placed in the museum.
The Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum is definitely a museum worth seeing.
There several different buildings there that you can go into. You can even climb up the lighthouse!
The lighthouse there is worth mentioning. For the first 2 stories it is made out of an open steel structure.
It needed to be open to let strong winds through. In big storms the waves will come up over the land.
Because of that, they built a walkway from the lightkeepers house over to the top of the lighthouse so that he could tend to the light even during a storm!
One of the buildings has a place to watch a video in honor of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The video talked a bit about the storms on Lake Superior and about how fast they come up. When we went in, it was a beautiful day with hardly a cloud in the sky. I think the only cloud in the sky was the one that you can almost see behind the light house in the picture above!
When we left the building just 20 minutes later the whole sky was completely covered with gray storm clouds. It had turned chilly and was beginning to lightly rain. We were wondering if the storm came up that fast then when are the waves going to start coming up to the lighthouse! ;)
The waves never did come up, but it sure gave us a small feeling of how scary it could be to be out on Lake Superior when a storm comes up.
Here's a compilation of video clips of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald with the music to the song.