The Gales of November

when-the-winds-of-november-come-early-curt-saunier

When the winds of November come early, photo by Curt Saunier

Never will I ever not share this incredible Edmund Fitzgerald video by Joseph Fulton on November 10th. Simply wonderful:

View Curt’s photo bigger and see more in his The Skies slideshow.

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

SS Edmund Fitzgerald Underway

SS Edmund Fitzgerald Underway, photo via Wikimedia Commons

I went and bought all of the old newspapers, got everything in chronological order, and went ahead and did it because I already had a melody in my mind. It was from an old Irish dirge that I heard when I was about three and a half years old. I think it was one of the first pieces of music that registered to me as being a piece of music. That’s where the melody comes from, from an old Irish folk song.
~Gordon Lightfoot on The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

40 years ago today, Michigan’s most remembered shipwreck took place. A big part of this is certainly Gordon Lightfoot’s signature ballad The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The song – familiar to almost every Michigander – seems to memorialize more than simply the 29 men who perished in that horrible storm. There is certainly no better video of this song than this one crafted by Joseph Fulton featuring footage of the Fitz that you’ve probably never seen. It starts out with Walter Cronkite’s Harry Reasoner’s news report from November 11, 1975 and just gets better from there – definitely worth your time!

mLive has an article about how & why Gordon Lightfoot wrote ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ that you should check out. It includes a nice little video where he shares how he’s edited the live lyrics to reflect what’s been learned about the sinking of the ship. They got Lightfoot’s account of  the writing of the song from the songwriter’s Ask Me Anything on Reddit, an interesting look inside of the mind of a thoughtful and talented songwriter.

I made some minor corrections to today’s photo to get the colors a little closer to those of the Fitz. View it big as the Fitz and see more at Edmund Fitzgerald images at Wikmedia.

There more ships and more shipwrecks on Michigan in Pictures.

Continue reading The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Edmund Fitzgerald, 1975

Edmund Fitzgerald 1975

Edmund Fitzgerald 1975, photo by The Open Lake Group LLC

Wade writes that this photo by Roger LeLievre of the Fitzgerald as she passes downbound in the St. Mary’s River off Six Mile Point is one of his all time favorite views the Fitz. See it on black and in his Edmund Fitzgerald slideshow. Wade works the lakes and has some really cool photos of all kinds of ships in his photostream. He had this to say about the Fitz:

The 729 foot Str. Edmund Fitzgerald was launched into the Detroit River in 1958. Over the next 17 years she was considered to be the ‘best among the best” as the flagship of the Columbia Transportation Line. Sailors that worked on her took immense pride in their opportunity and she was a favorite of sailors and people ashore as well.

Lots more Edmund Fitgerald on Michigan in Pictures and definitely check out The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Joseph Fulton on Absolute Michigan – a masterful video that accompanies Gordon Lightfoot’s tribute with great footage.

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Soo Locks

Never before published photo of the Edmund Fitzgerald, taken only months before it was lost with all hands in Lake Superior. Remember, you saw if first on Flickr! My father-in-law took this shot. He told my wife that he wasn't taking a picture of the Big Fitz; he just wanted a photo of the locks, and this happened to be in the photo. Unfortunately, the negative is long gone and this photo was printed on some sort of rough-coated matte paper so that it could be mailed as a postcard. My father-in-law didn't realize until months after the sinking that he had a picture of this vessel. The photo was taken in August 1975; the Edmund Fitgerald sank in November of that year. It was, ironically, the sinking that made this ship famous. After it was built it was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, but other than that, it was just another anonymous working vessel plying the waters between Wisconsin and Michigan.

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Soo Locks, photo by bill.d.

Through Gordon Lightfoot’s song, the Edmund Fitzgerald has become an icon for the power of the Great Lakes. Nowhere can you see it better than Joseph Fulton’s video of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a fantastic piece of film-making that you need to see if you haven’t already.

What I suspect that a lot of people forget (because I know I do) is that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was just one of many ships plying the Great Lakes. About the photo above, Bill writes:

My father-in-law took this shot. He told my wife that he wasn’t taking a picture of the Big Fitz; he just wanted a photo of the locks, and this happened to be in the photo. Unfortunately, the negative is long gone and this photo was printed on some sort of rough-coated matte paper so that it could be mailed as a postcard.

My father-in-law didn’t realize until months after the sinking that he had a picture of this vessel.

The photo was taken in August 1975; the Edmund Fitzgerald sank November 10th of that year. It was, ironically, the sinking that made this ship famous. After it was built in 1958, until 1971, it was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, but other than that, it was just another anonymous working vessel plying the waters between Wisconsin and Michigan.

Check it out background big and see the back of the postcard. Visit the links below for more about the SS Edmund Fitzgerald:

More shipwrecks on Absolute Michigan and Michigan in Pictures.

50th anniversary of the launch of the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald

Hull 301 Launch 3

Hull 301 Launch 3, photo courtesy The Open Lake Group, LLC

I was initially going to use another photo of the Edmund Fitzgerald for this post, but when I asked about that one, Wade showed me this one from the launch of “Hull 301”. How cool is it that I would happen to contact someone who had an unpublished photo of the launch? You can see a couple more photos from the launch (including one that shows the huge crowd) in his Edmund Fitzgerald set.

Saturday June 7th marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of what’s probably the most well known Great Lakes ship. Over on Absolute Michigan, SSEdmundFitzgerald.com posted “Celebrating the launch of the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald”. Reading it made me realize that our remembrance of what was once the largest ship ever to ply the Great Lakes ignores almost two decades of service and countless hours of hard work and craftsmanship.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon on June 7th, 1958, as more than 10,000 people lined the banks of the Detroit River. They had come to witness the launching of Hull 301 at the Great Lakes Engineering Works of River Rouge, Michigan. Mrs. Edmund Fitzgerald, wife of the president of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company for which the ship was named, christened the brand new ship and at 12:34 p.m. the 729 ft. “Edmund Fitzgerald” slid gracefully into the basin amid cheers, salutes, and well wishers.

For many of those in attendance, it was a spectacle that they would never forget.

The shipyard workers who constructed “Big Fitz” felt a deep sense of satisfaction as they anxiously watched the launch of this marvelous vessel. Being a prideful lot, they often endured long hours and harsh conditions. This was their “crowning achievement” and the beauty of their craftsmanship was truly evident to all those present.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of that memorable event. It is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate a joyous time in our lives. It is also a chance to recall the great pride and cherished memories experienced by the ship workers, the community, and all who had the opportunity to witness the launching of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

On this historic occasion, let us joyously share our personal stories, renew old friendships, and fondly remember the day when the “Queen Of The Lakes” was born.
June 7, 2008 Detroit MI

Great Lakes Ship Builders (Detroit Area) host the 50th Anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald Launch and Down River Celebration from 11 AM – 4 PM on Saturday, June 7 2008. The celebration will include a chance to meet the designers and others who worked on the Fitz, workshops on shipbuilders, and ships built in the downriver during the last 200 years. There will also be a Salute to Excellence Award, launch commemoration, and lots of art and artists. For more information, call Roscoe at 810 955-4305 (and poke around SSEdmundFitzgerald.com).

As often, there’s a Wikipedia entry for the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and you can see a gallery of photos from the building of the Fitz and this Zapruder-class video of the launch of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Wyandotte shipbuilding, the Fitzgerald brothers and the launch of the Little Fitz

Launch of the W.E. Fitzgerald at Wyandotte

Launch of the S.S. W.E. Fitzgerald at Wyandotte, Detroit Publishing Co.

I have no idea how I ended up at this photo (and why I suddenly feel like Paul Harvey), but here’s what I’ve learned through Boatnerd.com and a forum with a brief article from Boatnerd by Dick Wiklund about the “Little Fitz.”

William and Julia Fitzgerald of Marine City, Michigan sired six sons. The sons were fascinated by the wooden sailing ships and early steamboats on the St. Clair River, and all six became captains of Great Lakes ships. The youngest of these was John Fitzgerald, who started a shipyard in Milwaukee. His son, William E. Fitzgerald, took over the business in the 1890s but died just a few years later. William’s close friend, Captain Dennis Sullivan, built and christened the W.E. Fitzgerald in Wyandotte in his honor in 1906.

The Wyandotte Historical Museum’s history page says that Wyandotte’s shipbuilding industry was started by Eber B. Ward:

Wyandotte produced over 200 ships, varying from small tugs to large steamers and passenger ferries. Under the name of the American Shipbuilding Company the Wyandotte yards flourished. Hulls were constructed in Wyandotte and were taken up the Detroit River to Detroit, Michigan were they were outfitted. Smaller companies such as the E.H.Doyle Hoop & Stave Works(1889)who provided the city’s first electric power, the Regeant Stove Company, the McCord Corp. and the Beals & Selkirk Trunk Company soon made Wyandotte a famous industrial town.

In 1953, the WE Fitzgerald became known as the Little Fitz when the massive freighter named after William’s son was launched. His name, of course, was Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Library of Congress index of Wyandotte photos is heavy ships & shipyards (you may need to go to this page and search for “Wyandotte”). If you’re in the mood for a ton of Great Lakes freighter information (and a little music and “Laker” cooking), head over to Absolute Michigan’s word of the week: Freighter.