Echoes of the Edmund Fitzgerald

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At 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 9, 1975, the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior, Wisconsin, loaded with 26,116 tons of iron ore. She overtook the Arthur M. Anderson just beyond Two Harbors, Minnesota. The two captains discussed the worsening weather and decided to take the northerly route across Lake Superior to Whitefish Bay and the Soo Locks. Our maritime heritage tour follows the progress of the two ships from the south shore of Lake Superior, where stories of shipwrecks and survival draw visitors to museums, glass-bottom boat tours, lighthouses and the big lake itself.
We start in Marquette. There, the gravity-fed dock in the Upper Harbor still fills carriers like the Fitzgerald with tons of iron ore. At midnight on the morning of Monday, November 10, the Edmund Fitzgerald battled heavy seas directly north of Marquette, far on the other side of the lake. She would soon haul over to starboard near the Slate Island Light, heading southeast towards Michipicoten and Caribou Islands.
Marquette is no stranger to iron ore carriers and big storms. During the Big Blow of 1913, Captain Jimmy Owen, worried about lost business, took the Smith out of Marquette Harbor. As she cleared the breakwall, pitching and rolling, people ran to Lakeside Park to watch her. They saw her turn to the west, into the waves north of Marquette. It was the last time anyone saw her or her crew.
Tales of the Smith, daring rescues, lighthouses and lifeboats are all part of the Marquette Maritime Museum. Its also the place to go to find out what ships are in the Upper Harbor, or tour the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.
By mid-morning the Fitzgerald and the Anderson were directly north of Munising. Captain Cooper of the Anderson swung his ship to the southwest to take a direct aim through the shallow waters north of Caribou Island. But the Fitzgerald steamed close to Caribou and its underwater shoals. These granite rocksfound all around Lake Superiormake navigation in high winds a dangerous business. The resulting shipwrecks are time capsules for divers and visitors.
In Munising, non-divers can see shipwrecks aboard the Miss Munising on Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Tours. Among the remarkably preserved wrecks in Lake Superiors cold, fresh waters is the Herman H. Hettler, lost at Grand Island during a storm on November 23, 1926.
Pictured Rocks Cruises take passengers to the National Lakeshore where centuries of crashing waves have shaped sandstone cliffs into extraordinary colorful formations. Those waves spelled disaster for the side-wheel wooden steamer Superior on October 29, 1856. Of the 66 people on board, only 4 crew members and 12 passengers survived a trek through the wilderness to a traders cabin and eventual rescue by the steamer General Taylor. This story is told at the National Park Services Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Hiawatha National Forest Visitor Center. The center is also the place to go for information about trails, waterfalls, camping, fishing, and the Au Sable Point Lighthouse.
Around 3:30, with the Anderson and the Fitzgerald north of Grand Marais, Captain McSorley of the Fitzgeraldreported: I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and have taken on a starboard list. To Captain Cooper of the Anderson, this meant trouble. At 4:10 pm McSorley called the Grand Marais Coast Guard Station to ask whether the Whitefish Point Light was operating, and was told that it had been disabled by the storm. At 7:10 pm, Mate Clark of the Anderson asked McSorley how he was doing. McSorley replied We are holding our own. These were the last words ever heard from the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Today, visitors can visit the Lightkeepers House Museum built in 1906. The museum contains items that were in use at the turn of the century. Walking through the door is like stepping back in time.
No one will ever know exactly what happened after the Fitzgeralds final radio call. The Anderson was struck by two gigantic waves on her stern around 7 pm. Those waves would have met up with the Fitzgerald about 10 minutes later and might have delivered the final blow. The Edmund Fitzgeraldwas only 17 miles from the safety of Whitefish Bay.
Visitors to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point discover the complete story of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Her bell is displayed with other Fitzgerald artifacts as a moving tribute to the 29 men who lost their lives that night. In addition, other museum exhibits and the restored structures of the Whitefish Point Light Station/U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Station provide an unparalleled opportunity to explore the world of shipping, shipwrecks, diving and life saving on Michigans Great Lakes. You can even spend the night in the restored Crews Quarters building.
Captain Cooper and the Anderson reached the shelter of Whitefish Bay, then went back out to join the Coast Guard and the steamer William Clay Ford as they searched for survivors. Only when hope was gone did the Anderson resume its journey to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.
In Sault Ste. Marie, the Fitzgeralds two lifeboats are aboard the Museum Ship Valley Camp, a 1917 Great Lakes steamer. Visitors can experience the 21-foot difference between the St. Marys River and Lake Superior aboard Soo Locks Boat Tours or simply enjoy an up-close view of Great Lakes vessels from the solid ground of Locks Park. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Visitor Center at the Soo Locks has more details on the locks and the boats.

For more information, please call:

• Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association: (800) 562-7134
• Marquette Country Visitors Bureau: (906) 228-7745
• Munising Visitors Bureau: (906) 387-2138
• Paradise Area Tourism Council: (906) 492-3927

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse and Maritime Museum

300 North Lakeshore Blvd
PO Box 1096
Marquette, MI 49855
Reservations: (906) 226-2006
Phone: (906) 226-2006
The Marquette Maritime Museum is pleased to offer guided lighthouse tours of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. This is the only way to view this picturesque light as it is currently located on an active U.S. Coast Guard Base. Tours run daily mid-May through mid-October. Please call ahead for specific tour times. Group tours can also be arranged by calling the Museum. The tour consists of a walk through the Coast Guard grounds where visitors will get a brief history of life-saving in Marquette, MI before reaching the light. Once there, visitors are treated to the history of the lighthouse and get to explore the grounds and the living quarters. The tour ends with a majestic walk down the front catwalk. This is the only place to get a photograph of the front of the lighthouse and also see Marquette's historic shoreline. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us, visit our website. The museum tells a rich rewarding story of the maritime heritage of Marquette and Lake Superior. Exhibits include birch bark canoes, a "Fresno" lighthouse lens, mini auditorium. Antique inboard and outboard motors, restored boats, shipwreck charts, and displays, 40' coast guard vessels, 36' coast guard lifeboat restoration and ore boat flags and related memorabilia. The museum is on the national historic places register.
1204 Commercial Street
Munising, MI 49862
Phone: (906) 387-4477
The Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour is a two-hour fully narrated excursion of two shipwrecks, Bermuda (1860-1870)and the Herman H. Hettler (1889-1926)on the bottom of the Lake with the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the background. Enjoy a close-up view of the historic East Channel Lighthouse and colorful rock cliffs and caves of Grand Island .
100 City Park Drive
PO Box 355
Munising, MI 49862
Phone: (906) 387-2379
Voted #1 boat tour in the state of Michigan by Michigan Living. Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises offers a fully-narrated scenic 2-3 hour cruise of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. “Unique and spectacular,” is often the description passengers use when sharing their experience. The tour highlights the steep, 200-foot sandstone cliffs sculpted by ancient glaciers and painted by the mineral-rich ground water that runs down the face of the cliffs. Varying shades of brown, tan and yellow shimmer from minerals such as iron, copper and manganese, and provides a majestic vista only Mother Nature could create. Passengers enjoy breathtaking views of beautiful rock formations, beaches, bays, caves and lighthouses along the Lake Superior shoreline--you may even see an eagle in flight. Day and sunset cruises are available. All aboard!
PO Box 40
Munising, MI 49862-0040
Phone: (906) 387-3700
Multicolored sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, streams, forests and wildlife comprise this scenic area on Lake Superior. Activities include sightseeing, camping, kayaking, backpacking, hiking, fishing, hunting, picnicking, boating, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, a maritime museum, a lighthouse and a visitor's center. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stands out among the rest as having a reputation for being one of the most spectacular parks to give ice climbing a go — whether you are a novice or an experienced climber. Dogs on a leash no longer than six feet are allowed on Miners Beach.
Highway 28 to Highway 77
Grand Marais, MI 49839
Phone: (906) 387-3700
The AuSable Light Station is listed on the national register of historic places. Built in 1874 to warn mariners of a dangerous reef off of the AuSable Point. Now automated, the light station is being restored to its 1910 appearance. Guided tours are offered July and Aug., the grounds are always open, access is limited by snow from Nov.- April.
Grand Marais, MI 49839
Phone: (906) 494-2404
The Light Keeper's House was built in 1906 by the Life Saving Service as the Lightkeeper's home.The Pickle Barrel House is one of the most unique structures in the country. It was built in 1926 as a summer cottage for author/illustrator William Donalhey and his wife, Mary. The Old Post Office was originally built about 1905 as a jewelry store. In 1907 it was added onto and put into use as the Post Office. The unique, five-sided structure served as the town's hug of mail and information for almost 70 years, and was placed on the Michigan Register of Historic Sites. All three museums are open seasonally. During July and August, the museums are open daily from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm; during the months of June and September, they are open on weekends from 1:00pm to 4:00 pm. Private tours can be arranged
18335 North Whitefish Point Road
PO Box 291
Paradise, MI 49768
Reservations: (906) 492-3747
Toll Free: (888) 492-3747
Phone: (906) 635-1742
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, located at Michigan’s Whitefish Point Light-Station, is approximately 1.5 hours drive from the Mackinac Bridge. With more than 200 shipwrecks lying in the immediate vicinity, the area is known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. The museum features top quality exhibits of shipwreck artifacts, artwork, shipwreck models, new exhibits and lifelike mannequins. We offer a series of maritime history programs featured throughout the season. Admission includes the Shipwreck Museum gallery, a 15-minute video and tour(s) of the restored 1861 Lightkeeper’s Quarters and the 1923 Lifeboat Station Surfboat House. The bell of the famous steamer Edmund Fitzgerald is on display and serves as a memorial to her crew. The famous Whitefish Point Light Tower is open for tours, with all fees benefiting its restoration. The museum is open every day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May 1 to October 31. Overnight lodging is available in the 1923 restored Coast Guard Lifesaving Crew’s Quarters. The Crew's Quarters is open April 1st through November 10th. Special discounted rates during April and May. Included with your Crew's Quarters overnight stay is admission to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Light Station and a 10% discount in the Shipwreck Coast Museum Store. We hope you enjoy your visit to the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point!
501 East Water Street
Toll Free: (888) 744-7867
Phone: (906) 632-3658
The world's largest Great Lakes maritime museum! A 1917 steam-powered historic freighter. Explore the coal-fired steamer from engine room to pilot house. Maritime history comes to life through aquariums, lifeboats from the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald, exciting exhibits, photography, paintings, video presentations, shipwreck artifacts and models. There is an easy access ramping system.
515 & 1157 E. Portage Ave.
PO Box 739
Toll Free: (800) 432-6301
Phone: (906) 632-6301
Three ways to experience the Soo Locks! Soo Locks tours, sunset dinner cruises and lighthouse cruises. Take a trip through the famous Soo Locks. The whole family will enjoy a fully narrated, memorable and relaxing tour. Learn about the lake freighters, ocean vessel and historic Sault Ste. Marie. You'll enjoy our friendly staff, easily accessible facilities. Free pet kennel, gift shop and a snack bar. Our season runs from Mid-May to Mid-October of each year.
Portage Avenue
Phone: (906) 253-9290
The Soo Locks have been referred to as one of the great wonders of the world and are still the largest & one of the busiest waterway traffic systems on earth! Watching huge vessels pass through the Locks is a unique experience that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States! The Locks consist of two canals and four locks that allow vessels of many types/sizes to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation of the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. From viewing decks, you can watch "Lakers" and "Salties" (ocean-going vessels) as they travel the seaway between ports and navigate the rise/drop of the water levels. The Soo Locks Park Visitors Center, open from 9am - 9pm mid-May thru mid-October each year. We also have schedules of arriving vessels along with general information.