The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald known as one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes, passed by this location transporting taconite iron ore to ports in Detroit, Toledo and beyond.
November 10, 2015 marked 40 years since this 729-foot steamer succumbed to a severe storm on Lake Superior taking with her 29 crewmen. Tragically, the cause of her loss remains a mystery to this day. The complete story of the "Fitz", as she came to be known, including the map charting her final course and the U.S. Coast Guard audio of their unsuccessful search efforts is featured inside the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.
The keel of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was laid on August 7, 1957 at the Great Lakes Engineering Works shipyard in River Rouge Michigan, nine miles down the Detroit River from Belle Isle. Eleven months later, the completed hull was launched, and the "Fitz" became the known as the Queen of the Lakes.
The ship was named for the president of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Northwestern owned the vessel and leased it to the Columbia Transportation Division of the Oglebay Norton Company in Cleveland, Ohio. The ship carried the company's "C-in-a-Star" logo prominently on its smoke stack.
November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was carrying 26,116 tons of taconite ore pellets from Superior, Wisconsin to Detroit. It was the vessel's last run of the year, and Captain Ernest McSorley was to retire at the end of the trip. The ship sailed into a storm that came from several directions and met over Lake Superior. Winds of over 70 miles-per-hour generated 25 foot waves.
There are several theories about what caused the ship to sink. What is known for sure is that at about 7:10 pm, the ship sailed into a snow squall and was never seen again. Other vessels, including the S.S. William Clay Ford and U.S. Coast Guard rescue units, searched the area for many hours, but only recovered debris.
One evening in November 1974, enroute downriver, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald dropped anchor in the Detroit River, just west of Belle Isle. Since the navigational buoys had been removed for the season, the skipper decided to wait until daylight before proceeding to Toledo. The next morning, when crewmen pulled the anchor chains aboard, the starboard bow anchor remained behind, its master link having failed.
In July 1992, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum and members of the Detroit maritime community came together to recover this six ton artifact. It's placement outside the museum is only a short distance from where
the anchor was recovered and serves as a reminder and lasting tribute to the "Mighty Fitz", the crew and to all the men and women who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes.
The Detroit Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the A. Paul and Carol C. Schaap Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan for its support of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.