Friday, November 06, 2009

621 The Mighty Fitz

621 The Mighty Fitz (1958-1975)

We remember some shipwrecks. The Titanic, the Andrea Doria, the General Slocum, the Lusitania, the Bismarck. Had Gordon Lightfoot not made an unusual song about it, though, we might not remember the Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down in on the Canadian side of Lake Superior on November 10, 1975.

Unlike the sunken battle ships or the sunken luxury liners or the sunken touring boats, the Fitz was a mere ore carrier. There were no deck chairs or orchestras or huge guns. The Mighty Fitz was a bathtub with a propeller. And a shipwreck on a lake? A LAKE?!

Those of us who grew up on the Atlantic maybe too often turn our noses up at the thought of a lake as a formidable body of water. Superior is the largest lake in the world. And it is the third largest by volume with 200 rivers feeding it from several angles. Put it anywhere else, add a little salt and you've got yourself a perfectly fine sea.

And that bathtub with a propeller? Standing on the dock and looking up, you could confuse it with a mountain or a skyscraper. Length? Bigger than anything that floats and that you've been on. Seven hundred twenty nine feet. (The Titanic was 883.5, so only 150 feet or so bigger.)

We know what killed the Titanic, the Andrea Doria, the General Slocum, the Lusitania, the Bismarck. We do not know what killed the Edmund Fitz. A storm with hurricane force winds came suddenly and went? The bathtub overturned and broke up and went down, all so fast there wasn't time for a real distress call?

We can't exactly ask Capt. Ernest McSorley or any of the 28 others on board. But think about this: this vast ship, largest of its class and time, a city size bathtub carrying more than a quarter million tons of taconite, rocks with iron, falls 500 feet down and no one knows why or how.

It took awhile to find the wreck. The US Navy did that with magnets.

They've dived down and gotten the ship's bell. Did that only in 1995. It's in the museum they built.

Fifteen thousand people were on hand for the launch in '58. Twenty nine were on board for the sinking in '75. And they remain on board, preserved in their final moments and probably in good condition at that. The freshwater doesn't destroy its victims as the ocean does and there are no real predators down there.

As far as we know, all the crew remain where they landed. The families don't want them brought up.

That's the way they do it on the lakes. And this is the time of year we remember them.


--It was only justice. What better way to inaugurate a new stadium but with a world series win? Go Yankees!

--Mayor-for-life Bloomberg got bored running his company after about twenty years. But he has only 12 years to grow bored with his present job. Which is probably good for both Mike and for New York.

--A teenage girl in Idaho road rage rammed her truck into a car, then slathered the target with salad dressing. She used ranch flavor, which shows absolutely no upbringing. Everyone knows meals of metal taste better when slathered in FRENCH dressing.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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