Honour the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald When in Northern Ontario
Tragedy is not something I always encourage exploring. However, sometimes in order to shape our knowledge and understanding, embracing such historical events makes us richer in character and in life. You know when you head to certain countries you are bound to include visits to war museums, cemeteries, and such landmarks as concentration camps or memorials. These events happened and newer generations should be educated in order to implement preventative measures to avoid repetition. This is the case for the Edmund Fitzgerald. A doomed ship lying at the bottom of Lake Superior.
Northern Ontario has so much to offer. Most people flock to Toronto when they visit the province and know little to nothing for the most part about the northern areas way at the tip. I mean, parts of Ontario require multi-hour flights for crying out loud! Canada is that huge, warranting provincial flights, let alone domestic from East to West….
So up in the mostly unexplored areas of Ontario’s North is one of the twin cities we share with the United States – Sault Ste. Marie. Twin cities you may ask? Well, there is also a Sault Ste. Marie Michigan on the other side of the largest of the Great Lakes. This rockin’ waterfront town is just full of incredible history, lineage, scenery, details of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and boasts seriously underrated Ontario charm. Consider this road trip for your Canadian bucket list or you will be missing out. Trust me, The 8-hour drive from Toronto is worth it.
So, first the details on this Tragedy in Question
Gordon Lightfoot, a singer and songwriter that is the most quintessential Canadian out there wrote a song about this ill-fated voyage. He like myself became enamored by the story, that he felt the world should learn about the perils of that night through music. His song topped the charts and brought awareness to Canadians of this wreck, initiatinig efforts to keep it from happening again. He kept the crew from dying in vain…may they rest in peace.
November 10 1975, during the “stormy month of the Great Lakes” this freighter boat set sail on Lake Superior to deliver its usual cargo of ores and iron as per its 17-year routine. When built, it was the largest of its kind and surpassed many of its ancestors in the water vessel world. It left from Superior Wisconsin (not far from Duluth Minnesota) with the usual plan to drop off the delivery and head back. Little did they expect early storms, hail, tornado-strength winds, and the rage of waters to create such unsuitable conditions for their journey. The waves reached a scary 35-foot height. Suddenly, the ‘Fitzgerald’ sank 530 feet, taking the 29-passenger crew with them to the bottom just in Whitefish Bay between the twin cities. No distress calls were made by the captain and the last radioed recording received uttered “We are Holding Our Own.” Bodies were never recovered.
The water pumps on the boat were severely damaged and all the lifeboats that may have saved the crew members were all destroyed by the fierce storm upon them. The storm was such that even rescue boats were hesitant to head out and help the crew members, forcing them to make the executive decision to remain safe and sheltered by Whitefish Bay. The root cause of the demise was never truly determined, however, those who were out that night on the water can conclude and affirm that the storm definitely was the catalyst.
How you Can Explore this Historical Voyage
Head to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Located on the US side of the lake, head to Whitefish Michigan and see some of the recovered artifacts from the wreckage. One piece in particular that was recovered was the bronze bell which is promptly displayed for all to observe and respect.
The Lake Superior Circle Tour
Why not take a tour of the largest fresh lake in the world? A body of water spanning more than 82,000 square kms definitely deserves exploration of significant magnitude and this tour that covers the major sites around its edge from Winnie the Pooh statues, National Parks, beaches, heritage sites, and the location of the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald is worth every penny.
This tour starts up in Thunder Bay, the home of the beloved Canadian hero Terry Fox en route through both the USA and Canada, featuring many landmarks and endless picturesque scenery. As you leisurely head along the 2000 km epic circle, you will pass through the area where you can hop on a lake cruise and sit right on the site of the Edmund Fitzgerald. More on the rest of this tour coming soon on the blog!
Although the 29 crew and the boat was American, this tragedy struck Canada harshly as well. The sinking within our waters and the storm not ceasing its power took the lives of young men doing their job not knowing their lives would end in such instant natural wrath. If you head to Lake Superior to commemorate Canada 150, do try and include a trip to the exact spot where the vessel lays today. Maps and charts illustrate the exact location for those truly interested in locating the wreck and documenting it for their memories and research. Divers too have done the risky plummet 530 feet to catch a glimpse of the ship and to recover anything of value. We conclude this tribute 41.5 years after the tragedy with the ballad composed, written, and sung by Gordon Lightfoot. They will never be forgotten.
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