November 10th, 1975, a massive storm rolls over Lake Superior. As many ships make their way towards the safety of the coastline, one ship is left behind, in the dark turbulent night. That ship, The Edmund Fitzgerald now lye in the depths of the Superior. The events of that night and what happened to the 729-foot freighter are still a mystery to the world. Many theorize what conditions caused the ship to go down that night. Some theories deal with the weather conditions as well as focusing on equipment malfunctions that took place. So what sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald?
It was estimated that winds speeds were up to 96mph and waves were 35 feet high during the storm on the tenth. The Edmund Fitzgerald loaded with Iron Ore was headed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Detroit, Michigan to deliver its freight to Detroit steel mills to be used in the production in cars. However the ship turned toward the safety of Whitefish Bay as the storm approached. The 29 men aboard the Fitzgerald were confident in their safety despite the storm because of the ships reputation as one of the strongest and most competent ships on the Great Lakes. The ship when launched in 1958 set records for carrying the largest loads and making the fastest trips. The ship could carry 25,400 tons of freight. The ships captain Ernest McSorley was one of the most experienced captains in the business, he spent 44 of his previous years sailing on the Great Lakes. As you can tell the Captain, crew, and the ship itself were all held in high regard and none of their conducts were brought into question when evaluating why the ship sank. So why did the ship sink?
First, I will cover the actual weather conditions of that night and how they may have impacted the ship. Some believe that a rogue wave or series of rogue waves may have caused the ship to go down. Rogue waves, once thought to be a sailor’s myth, are classified as waves that are 2.2 times the size of a significant wave height. Rogue waves are caused by different waves from different directions colliding into one another. On the night of the 10th it was believed that warm air traveling from the Golf of New Mexico collided with cool artic air over Lake Superior creating a storm. The storm exhibited heavy winds. In some parts Lakes Superior winds can travel uninterrupted for over 300 kilometers. These winds created large waves from both sides of the lake, theoretically creating the perfect condition for rogue waves. A rogue wave or series of rogue waves would have had significant impact on the Edmund Fitzgerald especially when combined with the other factors of that night.
Secondly, equipment malfunctions may have vastly impacted why the ship didn’t make it out of the storm. Initially there were two critical navigation failures on board the Fitzgerald. Both radar units weren’t working and the direction finder was useless “because of an outage on a station on shore”, the captain reported to a nearby ship. The nearby ship, the Arthur Anderson...