Interview with Frederick Stonehouse
December 4, 2000
This is an interview which was conducted on December 4, 2000 with Frederick Stonehouse, author of The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald. Here are the questions asked, and Mr. Stonehouse's answers.
Question: Do you think the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald got the attention that it deserved?
Answer: Sure, I think the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald got the attention it deserved.
Question: Why do you think that so many people are interested in the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, even after twenty-five years?
Answer: I think that that is a combination of things; the ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot, which was his best ever; the fact that the Edmund Fitzgerald is a classic Great Lakes shipwreck, (a story of a very powerful shipwreck); and the sinking is a huge mystery with no witnesses, and the loss of all hands. Now, 25 years later it is still a mystery, and that is why there are people interested in the Fitz even twenty-five years later.
Question: What is your theory on what happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: I have no theory. No one knows exactly what happened, so even if someone said that it was abducted by aliens, no one can prove that wrong.
Question: What do you find most interesting about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Answer: The thing about the wreck of the Fitz that interests me most is that the shipwreck is a fact turned into a legend.
Question: What first inspired you to write a book about the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: What first inspired me was watching it occur as a historian of Great Lakes maritime. I also knew that it would be a subject of public interest.
Question: Did you ever go up to Whitefish Point for a memorial service?
Answer: Yes, I went on the 20th anniversary, and again this year. When we went for the 20th, we got to meet Gordon Lightfoot.
Question: There have been several thousand shipwrecks on the Great Lakes; why does the Fitzgerald stand out the most?
Answer: The Fitzgerald, in my opinion, stands out the most because it is fairly recent and due to the ballad, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, it has been kept in the public conscience for these past twenty-five years.
Question: When did you first hear that the Edmund Fitzgerald was missing?
Answer: Late night on November 10th during a radio interview.
Question: Should the wreck site be open for further exploration, even though many are currently trying to prevent further exploration? Why or why not?
Answer: I think that unless someone has modified reasons to open it, it should be closed. If someone has scientific interest in the wreck, and can prove it should be explored further, then that should be allowed.
Question: If it is possible, do you think that an attempt should be made to salvage the ship?
Answer: It is possible, (technology available) and if they can prove a valid case of why they should do it, then Ithink they should be able to salvage whatever they want to...if they can present a valid case.
Question: All twenty-nine men went down with the ship...why do you think this is? Was the crew prepared for an emergency situation?
Answer: Well, with exceptions, I do not believe the majority of the crew had any understanding of what was happening; everything happened to fast to take any action. Someone may have been aware, such as the captain. They could not have prevented it even if they knew.
Question: How much work went into writing your book?
Answer: Well, the first edition of the book, released in 1977, took about six months.
Question: Have you written any books other than The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?
Answer: Yes, I have written a total of sixteen books.
Question: Were you able to attend any 25th anniversary memorial services?
Answer: Yes, I attended all of the services held in Duluth, Minnesota.
Question: Where were you and how old were youat the time of the disappearance?
Answer: I was in Marquette and 27 at the time.
Question: What do you think of the ballad by Gordon Lightfoot?
Answer: Marvelous ballad.