It was as if God had reached down from the skies and grabbed me, as I was attempting to walk along the shores on the Straits of Mackinac, that incredibly turbulent day in November of 1975. Despite applying all the muscle strength I could muster, at a very healthy 21 years old, I suddenly found myself powerfully trudging my feet along into the earth just to stay stationary. Forget stopping ... that would have sent me tumbling from Mackinaw City all the way back to Detroit.
It was November 10, 1975. At that exact moment, unbeknownst to me and approximately 100 miles due north of my location, Captain Ernest M. McSorley was fighting the battle of his life, desperately trying to keep the giant Great Lakes Iron Ore freighter the Edmund Fitzgerald afloat.
Lake Superior, well documented for its incredible winter storms, by 4 p.m. had waves that reached 12 to 16 feet, whipped by winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour at the Soo Locks, which were shut down. The Coast Guard issued an emergency warning: all ships were to find safe harbor. By 6 p.m. the crashing waves were now 25 feet high.
It was roughly 6:30 p.m. when Captain McSorley reported to control that he was having difficulty with the ship and was taking on water. There was noticeable damage to the ship's ballast vent pipes and the radar on the ship was not working. McSorely said it was the worst storm he had ever seen. All contact was lost and at 7:10 p.m. with the Edmund Fitzgerald estimated to be just 17 miles from its safe harbor distination of Whitefish Point, Captain McSorley finally lost his battle against the angry sea.All 29 officers and crew, including a Great Lakes Maritime Academy cadet, went down with the ship, which today lies broken in two sections in 530 feet of water.
Please take a moment and play the attached tribute, which includes the Gordon Lightfoot immortal classic: "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."