The SS Edmund Fitzgerald is just one of about 350 ships resting on the bottom of Lake Superior, but it may be the most famous. The ship set sail from northwestern Wisconsin on November 9, 1975 but sadly did not make it to port. Twenty-nine men—including captain Ernest McSorley, who happened to be on his last voyage before retirement—lost their lives after the ship sank in bad weather. For Orion Magazine, Martha Lundin recalls the power of Lake Superior, the ship’s many ill-fated omens, and the sometimes foreboding feminine mystique around sailing nomenclature.
It starts snowing hard in the afternoon, and the Fitzgerald is seventeen miles ahead of the Anderson, visible only on radar. A wave crashes over the deck and breaks one of the fences. The water drags the screeching, twisted metal into the mouth of her, swallows it. Superior presses against the belly of the ship, pushes her sideways. McSorley radios Anderson captain Bernie Cooper: “I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” The Fitz slows down, lets the Anderson gain on her again. There is a sense of safety in proximity.