12 doomed facts about the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald

Mental Floss:

On November 10, 1975, two ships made their way in tandem across the stormy waters of Lake Superior. One was the Arthur M. Anderson, led by Captain Jesse Cooper. The other, captained by Ernest McSorley, was the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.

The ship was last seen on radar around 7:15 p.m. All 29 men on board were lost with it, and today, 40 years after the most famous shipwreck in Great Lakes history, the cause is still a mystery.

Here’s what we do know about the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, and what happened to it that fateful day.

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a beautifully tragic song from Canadian songwriting legend Gordon Lightfoot. I’m probably not wrong in saying that all Canadians, at least those over the age of 40, know every word to that song.



  • Tim Biller

    Not just Canadians, Shawn.

    • Yep. Lightfoot’s song was burned into me too on this side. I spent summers as a first mate on Lake Michigan, about a mile from Death’s Door. I learned just how powerful – almost beyond comprehension – the forces are on the Great Lakes.

    • Interesting. I didn’t know Americans even knew of the song.

      • JimCracky

        Gordon Lightfoot isa big deal to us Americans of a certain age.I live on a great Lakes Port town. The lake is a powerful force, not to be taken lightly.

      • rick gregory

        Oh yeah, it was played a lot when it was first released. At least in the northern US, no idea if it was a thing nationally.

      • Tim Biller

        I’m British. This song is very well known over here.

      • Shannon

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  • sincarne

    I thought the consensus was she was broken apart by a rogue wave?

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/edmund-fitzgerald-sunk-by-rogue-wave-documentary-1.495742

  • Whats really crazy is that the ship was almost 200 feet longer than the depth of the water it sunk in. One story I read theorized that the bow could have been digging into the bottom of the lake while the stern was still above water which could have contributed to the ship breaking apart.

  • JimCracky

    My good friend wrote the definitive account of this tragedy:

    https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/mighty-fitz

  • Obi-Wandreas

    Stopped with my kids at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, where they have a restored freighter. In one of the sections they have a display about the Edmund Fitzgerald, including one of the lifeboat oars.

    It wasn’t until after we left the ship that I told them there were 6 just like it sitting at the bottom of the great lakes.

  • Nick West

    Err…12 doomed facts?

    Facts are doomed?

    Umm, Shawn…

    • Not my headline. 🙂

      • Nick West

        You’re off the hook then. Looks like we need it for Lampkin and Schneider. My first thought was that I’d need another hook, but no, since two allegedly educated alleged adults couldn’t spot such an obvious grammatical error, they can share the hook.

  • Mo

    Lightfoot performed at my college, back around 1980. Loudon Wainwright III opened for him. It was a hell of an evening.

  • I definitely grew up with this song. Mariner’s Cathedral is still operating as an Anglican Church, and to this day they still bless the flags of all of the ships that sail the Great Lakes.