Theories about the sinking

Image copyright S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online

Image copyright S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online

There are several theories behind the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, but still to this day nothing has been proven. Since there were no survivors to provide eyewitness accounts, any theory is as plausible as others. Though research has been conducted and claims made, nothing can provide a definitive reason and cause for the sinking. This page lists the most common theories, although many are plausible.

  • A wave engulfed the ship, pushing the front of the ship underwater. The ship then hit ground, and broke in two...this may be why the two portions of the ship are so close.
  • Waves lifted both ends of the ship (bow and stern), but the center of the ship containing the cargo was not held by a wave, so the overload forced the center downward, sinking and/or breaking the ship in two.
  • Bottoming out/grounding. This could have very well happened near Six Fathom Shoal.
  • Faulty hatch covers *this theory has been disproven by research and expeditions
  • Previous structural damage may have caused the sinking.
  • Huge waves swamped the ship and it sank. Many people call these huge waves (so big they are detected by radar) the Three Sisters.
  • A huge wave rode up between two swells and the ship snapped in half.