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Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Amazing Stories)

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Amazing Stories)

Under a gloomy November sky, SS Edmund Fitzgerald suddenly surrendered to ferocious gale-force winds, plunging to the bottom of Lake Superior, leaving no survivors. This haunting collection looks back to one of the most legendary, mysterious, and controversial shipwrecks of the Great Lakes. In the great battle between humans and nature, the outcome is often tragic and humbling.


The ship's launch on Saturday, June 8, 1958, was a big event in Detroit. Over 15,000 people were in attendance, including Edmund Fitzgerald himself and several members of his family. As the crowd gathered, military planes, commercial airliners, and helicopters flew overhead, while on the Detroit River, a flotilla of boats yachts, sailboats, fishing boats, tugs, scows, and freighters waited to welcome the new ship. Among these vessels was the 32-year-old W. E. Fitzgerald, which saluted the new Fitzgerald by blasting her deep horn.

Edmund Fitzgerald's wife, Elizabeth, was given the honour of christening the ship. Looking regal in a dark blue dress, white gloves, and a white pillbox hat, she said, "I christen you Edmund Fitzgerald, God bless you," then smashed the celebration champagne bottle across the ship¹s bow. To everyone's surprise, the bottle didn't break. Elizabeth tried a second time, and again the bottle stayed intact. Thankfully, the third attempt was successful.

The rest of the launch was even more awkward than the christening. Despite the Herculean efforts of the shipyard crews, loosening the stubborn keel blocks underneath the vessel took more time than anticipated. Finally, after a delay of 36 minutes, eight electronically controlled guillotines dropped their razor-sharp blades to cut the hawsers (large ropes or cables) that were holding the ship. The Edmund Fitzgerald then slid thunderously down the 60 feet of wood timbers (smeared with train oil) and into the Detroit River. She entered the water sideways, crashing violently into the dock as her top half rolled to port, back to starboard, and then back to port again before stabilizing.

The side launch caused a huge wave to roll into the stands, soaking the stunned crowd. One onlooker, 58-year-old Jennings Frazier of Toledo, suffered a heart attack and died on the spot the first casualty of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Superstitious sailors saw the death as an omen of bad luck for the vessel.

About the Author

Elle Andra-Warner is a journalist, author, and photographer who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Estonian by heritage, she was born in a post-war Estonian displaced persons camp in Germany and came to Canada as a young child with her parents. A graduate of Lakehead University, Elle specializes in writing creative non-fiction, about everything from people to travel, history, culture, kayaking and aviation. Her weekly newspaper column about people is in its tenth year of publication. And as a travel journalist and photographer, her feature articles appear in publications world-wide.

Elle is also a communications consultant, speechwriter, and workshop facilitator. When she's not researching, writing, or travelling, she enjoys relaxing at the family's lakeside log cabin near Nakina or exploring northwestern Ontario.

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