Timeline of Events for the Edmund Fitzgerald
A contract is signed between the Great Lakes Engineering Works (GLEW) and Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company stipulating that GLEW is to design and build the largest ship on the Great Lakes.
The keel of hull number 301 (the Edmund Fitzgerald) is laid in River Rouge, Michigan
The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company officially announces they will name the ship for the recently elected chairman of the board, Mr. Edmund Fitzgerald.
The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is christened, making it the largest freighter sailing on the Great Lakes.
Testing of the seaworthiness (sea trials) of the Edmund Fitzgerald begins. Passing these trials will allow the Edmund Fitzgerald to officially begin sailing and carrying cargo under the supervision of a crew.
Operation of the ship is handed over Oglebay-Norton.
The Fitzgerald takes her first voyage under Captain Bert Lambert through the Soo Locks. Upon returning, the ship breaks the record for the largest load carried through the Locks.
The Edmund Fitzgerald is assigned a new captain: Captain Larson
Peter P. Pulcer becomes captain of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Internal and external damage occurs when the Edmund Fitzgerald hits ground near the Soo Locks.
The Edmund Fitzgerald and the S.S. Hochelaga collide, causing damage for the second time in less than eight months.
The Edmund Fitzgerald is damaged when it hits a lock wall. This is the third time the Edmund Fitzgerald has been subjected to significant damage in only 12 months.
During winter maintenance in Duluth, Minnesota, the Fitzgerald is converted from running on coal to running on oil.
Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald. McSorley is the last captain the Fitzgerald will sail under.
Damage is sustained by hitting a Soo Lock wall.
The ship loses its bow anchor at about one mile to the west of Belle Isle, on the Detroit River.
The Edmund Fitzgerald hits a Soo Lock wall, causing additional damage for the second time in one month.
The Edmund Fitzgerald is loaded with taconite pellets at Burlington Northern Railroad, Dock 1. The ship is scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River.
The Fitzgerald departs Lake Superior en route of Detroit with 26,116 tons of taconite pellets.
The National Weather Service issues gale warnings for the area which the Fitzgerald is sailing in. Captain Cooper on the Anderson radios a freighter (the Edmund Fitzgerald) that he spots.
The Fitzgerald spots the Arthur M. Anderson some 15 miles behind it.
Weather report from the Fitzgerald.
The report from the Fitzgerald shows her to be 20 miles south of Isle Royale. Winds are at 52 knots, with waves ten feet in height.
Weather report from the Fitzgerald.
Winds are at 35 knots, waves of ten feet. This is the last weather report that the Edmund Fitzgerald will ever make.
Captain Jesse Cooper, (J.C.) of the S.S. Arthur M. Anderson watches the Fitzgerald round Caribou Island and comments that the Fitzgerald is much closer to Six Fathom Shoal than he would want to be.
Anderson reports winds coming from the Northwest at 43 knots.
Radio transmission between the Fitzgerald and the Anderson
Captain McSorley (C.M.) to Captain Cooper (C.C.):
C.M.: "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have sustained some topside damage. I have a fence rail laid down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me til I get to Whitefish?"
C.C.: "Charlie on that Fitzgerald. Do you have your pumps going?"
C.M.: "Yes, both of them
The Fitzgerald radios the Arthur M. Anderson requesting radar assistance for the remainder of the voyage.
Fitzgerald: "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have lost both radars. Can you provide me with radar plots till we reach Whitefish Bay?"
Anderson: "Charlie on that, Fitzgerald. We'll keep you advised of position."
About 4:39 PM
The Fitzgerald cannot pick up the Whitefish Point radio beacon. The Fitzgerald radios the Coast Guard station at Grand Marais on Channel 16, the emergency channel.
Between 4:30 and 5:00 PM
The Edmund Fitzgerald calls for any vessel in the Whitefish Point area regarding information about the beacon and light at Whitefish Point. They receive an answer by the saltwater vessel Avafors that the beacon and the light are not operating.
Estimated between 5:30 and 6:00 PM
Radio transmission between the Avafors and the Fitzgerald.
Avafors: "Fitzgerald, this is the Avafors. I have the Whitefish light now but still am receiving no beacon. Over."
Fitzgerald: "I'm very glad to hear it."
Avafors: "The wind is really howling down here. What are the conditions where you are?"
Fitzgerald: (Undiscernable shouts heard by the Avafors.) "DON'T LET NOBODY ON DECK!"
Avafors: "What's that, Fitzgerald? Unclear. Over."
Fitzgerald: "I have a bad list, lost both radars. And am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever been in."
Avafors: "If I'm correct, you have two radars."
Fitzgerald: "They're both gone."
Sometime around 7:00 PM
The Anderson is struck by two huge waves that put water on the ship, 35 feet above the water line. The waves hit with enough force to push the starboard lifeboat down, damaging the bottom.
Radio transmission between the Anderson and the Fitzgerald. The Fitzgerald is still being followed by the Arthur M. Anderson. They are about 10 miles behind the Fitzgerald.
Anderson: "Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?"
Fitzgerald: "Yes we have."
Anderson: "Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you."
Fitzgerald: "Well, am I going to clear?"
Anderson: "Yes. He is going to pass to the west of you."
Fitzgerald: "Well, fine."
Anderson: "By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problem?"
Fitzgerald: "We are holding our own."
Anderson: "Okay, fine. I'll be talking to you later."
They never did speak later...The 29 men onboard the Fitzgerald will never again speak with anyone outside of the ship.
Sometime between 7:20 and 7:30 PM
It is estimated that this was the time period when the ship vanished and sank.
The Fitzgerald enters a squall while still on Lake Superior; the squall obscures the vessel from radar observation by the Anderson; this is normal when in a squall.
Edmund Fitzgerald disappears from the radar of the S.S. Arthur M. Anderson, prompting a call to the Coast Guard to inform them of the situation.
The Anderson calls again and informs the Coast Guard that they have lost the Fitzgerald both visually and on radar.
The Coast Guard, with no available search ships, radios the Arthur M. Anderson requesting assistance.
C.G.: "Anderson, this is Group Soo. What is your present position?"
Anderson: "We're down here, about two miles off Parisienne Island right now... the wind is northwest forty to forty-five miles here in the bay."
C.G.: "Is it calming down at all, do you think?"
Anderson: "In the bay it is, but I heard a couple of the salties talking up there, and they wish they hadn't gone out."
After much more conversation and a request by the Coast Guard to return to search for the ship, reluctant to go out, the S.S. Arthur M. Anderson agrees to "give it a try" but claims that that is "all we can do."
The first aircraft arrives on the scene from Traverse City, Michigan.
November 11, 1975
around 2:00 AM
William Clay Ford arrives at the scene of the wreck.
A Reverend by the name of Richard Ingalls prays in his church and holds a memorial service for the twenty nine men lost. This service becomes an annual service and is mentioned in the song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot.
The song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is released by Gordon Lightfoot to the public commemorating the shipwreck. This song is still performed to this day at his concerts.
The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is OFFICIALLY identified.
Calypso expedition takes place.
The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon.