The legend of the Edmund Fitzgerald remains the most mysterious and controversial of all shipwreck tales heard around the Great Lakes. Her story is surpassed in books, film and media only by that of the Titanic. Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot inspired popular interest in this vessel with his 1976 ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
The Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with her entire crew of 29 men on Lake Superior November 10, 1975, 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan.
"According to a legend of the Chippewa tribe, the lake they once called Gitche Gumee 'never gives up her dead.'" -- Great Lakes: The Cruelest Month, James R. Gaines with Jon Lowell in Detroit, ©1975 Newsweek Magazine
Thus began the Newsweek article in the issue of November 24, 1975. That lead and the news magazine's dry story inspired Gordon Lightfoot to write one of the greatest "story songs" ever.
On November 10, 1975, an ore carrier - the Edmund Fitzgerald - sank in Lake Superior during a November storm, taking the lives of all 29 crew members. Later that month, Gordon Lightfoot, inspired by that article in Newsweek Magazine, wrote what is probably his most famous song: Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
The lyrics to Gordon Lightfoot's songEdit
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'. Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya.
At seven p.m. a main hatchway caved in, he said Fellas, it's been good t'know ya
The captain wired in he had water comin' in And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when his lights went outta sight Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Does any one know where the love of God goes When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized; May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams; The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know With the Gales of November remembered.
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed, In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'.
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead When the gales of November come early!