Skip to comments.In the Edmund Fitzgerald's wake
Posted on 11/09/2005 8:58:59 PM PST by wallcrawlr
Thirty years after the wreck, a crew member's son comes to terms with his loss.
ASHLAND, WIS. - Having lived all of his life on the shores of Lake Superior, Bruce Kalmon knows how cruel November can be.
< snip >
Kalmon says he can only hope he's alone when "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is played on the radio, as it frequently is around the Great Lakes this time of year. He likes the Gordon Lightfoot ballad, but it can get to him, especially "that line about the old cook."
His father, Allen Kalmon, was second cook on the Fitzgerald when the freighter sank with all 29 of its crewmen 30 years ago today. Allen Kalmon was 43. His son was 11 and at home in Washburn, Wis., with his mother and four sisters that night.
He and a sister were waiting for Johnny Carson's monologue when the Duluth TV station they were watching broadcast a bulletin with the unbelievable news that their father's vessel was missing.
"My first thought was, 'How could that huge boat be missing?' " Kalmon, now 41, said last week at his home in Ashland, on the lake's south shore. "I told myself that at least dad is a good swimmer."
He prayed in bed while his mother stayed up making urgent phone calls. In the morning, she came to his bedside and gently asked if he knew what the missing-ship report meant.
"It means that dad's dead," he remembers replying.
(Excerpt) Read more at startribune.com ...
Moving story. Thanks for posting it.
weren't you just looking for this ? :)
The Edmund Fitzgerald went down a month after we were married. I dind't know anything about it. When I heard the song, I first thought it was one of those old shipwreck stories that Canadian singers like so well. I was amazed when I learned years later that it was written about a ship that had sunk so recently.
"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down...."
Remembering from Texas.
Does anyone know
where the love of God goes
when the waves
turn the minutes to hours?
Prayers for all!
So many will observe this day with thoughts and prayers for the Fitzgerald crew, their families and loved ones. That their loss not be in vain, let us recognize the power of God and Nature over the folly of Man.
- bump -
The legend lives on from the chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee"
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the "Gales of November" came early.
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'.
"Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya."
At Seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in', he said
"Fellas, it's been good t'know ya"
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the Gales of November remembered.
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee".
"Superior", they said, "never gives up her dead
When the 'Gales of November' come early!"
I'll be making a wreck of the Patrick Fitzgerald soon enough...
I remember when the Edmund Fitzgerald was lost. And it was not long after that event that Lightfoot wrote and released that song.
The lyric you cite is the focal part of the song that haunts me to this day.
Link to webcast of "Night Watch for the Edmund Fitzgerald", 4:30 PM today from Dossin Great Lakes Museum:
(The Wretch that is Patrick Fitzgerald)
Is that painting based on actual sonar readings of the wreck or is it just a painter's imagination?
If your interested, Gordon Lightfoot wrote and sang another song about a shipwreck. It's titled "Ballad of the Yarmouth Castle", about an aging cruise ship out of Florida that catches fire at sea. Here's a link to the words.
Near the center of the graphic you can see a small yellow robotic vehicle shining its light down onto the wreck. I believe this painting was done based on the images of the wreck that were gathered a few years ago during an exploration of the site to conduct research about the ship's demise.
God, what a picture.
That song is unforgettable.
bump my own thread...how low have I gone...
Not many songs get me choked up, thats one of 'em.
We certainly had the "Gales of November" on the big lake yesterday with gusts up to 60 mph. Occasionally the big freighters will duck into the Keweenaw Portage to wait out the storms.
Once in while you'll see old timbers laying on the beach. Whether these are timbers from old shipwrecks is anyone's guess.
Chicago had a gale blow down from Superior in November 1998. I had to drive from the northside to the southside and on the south end of the Illinois Tollway, there's a section that goes through a rock quarry pit-- no wind break. It was a white-knuckle drive all the way. I sat in a restaurant and watched as roadsigns shuddered and debris blew by -- just like what you see when a hurricane hits someplace. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be on the lake when one of these hits.
Thanks for posting this touching story. God bless all those men lost, and their families.
how about 'the wreck of ol' teddy kennedy'?
commissioned to be built feb 1, 1957 for Norwestern Mutual
Insurance to be the largest on the Great Lakes.
It was named for their CEO .
built in River Rouge, MI
christened june 8, 1958
One of the Coast Guard officers who took part in the search/rescue operations for the Edmund Fitzgerald apparently said that the weather on Lake Superior on the night of November 10, 1975 was worse than anything he had seen on the North Atlantic.
Sent to me by a friend, the following story is what happened to the EF, and what caused her to sink.
On November 10, 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank into the waters of Lake Superior. The ballad The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald sung by Gordon Lightfoot was a well-deserved tribute to the 29 men who died that day. Although the words of the song seem to indicate that the captain and crew knew they were doomed, it is now believed the sinking of the Fitzgerald was so rapid that the men did not know the full seriousness of their plight. No attempts were made to leave the ship by lifeboat. No distress signals were ever issued.
The "Marine Casualty Report" issued by the Coast Guard Board of Investigation suggests that the Fitzgerald had taken on water due to earlier damage from the storm. When she plunged headfirst into a large wave, she sank. There was no time to make a final distress call or attempt life-saving operations.
So what caused the Edmund Fitzgerald to sink? One documentary on the Discovery Channel said it was likely that "complacency" took her down. In the tradition of the Titanic--she was believed to be unsinkable.
7 June 1958, the Edmund Fitzgerald, is launched on the River Rouge from the Great Lakes Engineering Works (GLEW). The Fitzgerald becomes the largest ship to sail the Great Lakes, a title she will hold for eleven years.
In 1969 the Minimum required freeboard is reduced by the American Board of Shipping (ABS)
On 6 September 1969 The Edmund Fitzgerald ran aground near the Soo Locks, resulting in considerable internal and external damage.
1969-70 Winter layup Additional vertical stiffening is added to her keelsons to correct a cracking problem.
1970 30 April Collision with S.S. Hochelaga
1971 Freeboard is again reduced by ABS
1971-72 Winter layup Duluth, Minnesota Converted from coal to oil.
1973 Freeboard is again reduced by ABS. The Fitzgerald can now legally carry enough cargo to sit 3 feet 3 1/4 inches lower in the water than was considered safe when she was launched.
May 1973 Soo Lock wall is hit with damage.
1973-74 Winter layup The cracking problem has reoccurred, corrected by welding.
7 Jan 1974 Detroit River About one mile west of Belle Isle, the Fitzgerald loses her bow anchor.
17 June 1974 Again, the Soo Lock wall is struck with damage.
31 October 1975 Toledo, Ohio The Coast Guard inspects the Fitzgerald. Lt. William R. Paul of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office notes the problems on Form CG 835. She is found to have damaged hatch coverings on three of her hatches. The ship will not be permitted to sail next spring unless repairs are made. However, she is allowed to continue sailing without repairs for the remainder of the shipping season.
4 November 1975 The Coast Guard writes Oglebay Norton a letter, informing them of the damaged hatches. The Fitzgerald is considered seaworthy to face the November weather but must have the repairs made before spring.
9 November 1975 8:30 AM Superior, Wisconsin The Edmund Fitzgerald begins loading a cargo of taconite (iron ore pellets) at the Burlington Northern Railroad Dock No. 1. She is scheduled to take them to a steel maker on Zug Island in the Detroit River. She is still chartered to Oglebay Norton of Cleveland. (This is certainly the source of the incorrect lyric "When she left fully loaded for Cleveland")
2:20 PM The Fitzgerald leaves Superior with a cargo of 26,116 long tons of taconite. ("Twenty-Six Thousand tons more than the good ship weighed empty")
2:39 PM The Weather Service posts gale warnings. On the Anderson, Captain Cooper radios to a freighter he sees behind him.
"W4805, Arthur M. Anderson to the vessel northbound abeam Knife River. Do you read me?"
"Anderson, this is the Edmund Fitzgerald. Over"
"This is the Anderson. Have you picked up the gale warnings the Weather Service just posted? Over."
"This is the Fitzgerald, ah, roger."
"I'm thinking I will take the northern track; get over to the north shore for shelter in case it really starts to blow. Over."
"I've been thinking the same thing. I'm steering sixty-five degrees for Isle Royale."
Weather report from the Fitzgerald.
The Fitzgerald is a weather reporting ship, as is the Anderson. They report four times a day, at 1 AM, 7 AM, 1 PM, and 7 PM. The report from the Fitzgerald shows her position to be 20 miles south of Isle Royale. Winds from 030 at 52 knots, waves of 10 feet.
At some point early in the morning, the Fitzgerald overtakes the Anderson.
Weather report from the Fitzgerald.
The report gives her position as 45 N of Copper Harbor, Winds from 050 at 35 knots, waves of 10 feet. This is the last weather report from the Fitzgerald.
Weather report from the Anderson. Her position is 20 miles northwest of Michipicoten Island, winds from 150 at 20 knots, waves of 12 feet.
Weather report from the M/V Simcoe. The Simcoe is only 15 miles away and reports winds from 270 at 44 knots, with waves of 7 feet.
No weather report is received from the Fitzgerald.
Her estimated position is 11 miles northwest of Michipicoten Island.
Radio traffic between the masters of the Anderson and the Fitzgerald.
Captain Cooper states "I'm going to haul to the west for a while."
Captain McSorley replies "Well, I am rolling some, but I think I'll hold the course until I'm ready to turn for Caribou."
Log of the Anderson
Winds NW by N at 5 knots, north of Michipicoten.
Log of the Anderson
West of Michipicoten, winds from the NW at 42 knots.
The Edmund Fitzgerald rounds Caribou Island near "Six Fathom Shoals".
Captain Jesse Cooper onboard the Arthur Anderson watches on radar and remarks to his first mate, Morgan E. Clark.
"Look at this, Morgan. That's the Fitzgerald; he's in close to that six fathom spot."
Morgan replies "He sure looks like he's in the shoal area."
"He sure does. He's in too close. He's closer than I'd want this ship to be."
Log of the Anderson
South of Michipicoten, winds from the NW at 43 knots.
Radio Transmision from Captain McSorley on the Fitzgerald to
"Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have sustained some topside damage. I have a fence rail laid down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me til I get to Whitefish?"
"Charlie on that Fitzgerald. Do you have your pumps going?"
"Yes, both of them."
The Fitzgerald is equipped with four electric 7000 gallon-per-minute main ballast pumps and two electric 2000 gallon-per-minute auxiliary pumps.
The Fitzgerald has two radar sets but both use a common antenna.
The Fitzgerald calls on the radio to the Arthur M. Anderson.
"Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have lost both radars. Can you provide me with radar plots till we reach Whitefish Bay?"
"Charlie on that, Fitzgerald. We'll keep you advised of your position."
The upbound saltwater vessel Avafors is piloted is a retired laker, Captain Cedric Woodard. Woodard advises the Captain of the Avafors not to leave the shelter of Whitefish Bay. The saltwater captain gives his reply.
"This is just a lake. We go, pilot."
The Avafors departs Whitefish Bay.
about 4:39 PM
The Fitzgerald cannot pick up the Whitefish Point radio beacon. Without radar operating and with no radio beacon, the Fitzgerald is operating blind, totally dependent on navigational assistance from the Anderson. The Fitzgerald radios the Coast Guard station at Gran Marais on Channel 16, the emergency channel. They reach Able-Bodied Seaman Gary Wigen, who instructs the Fitzgerald to change channels, to channel 22. The Fitzgerald reestablishes contact on 22.
"Gran Marais. This is the Fitzgerald. Is the Whitefish Point radio beacon operative?"
Standby. We don't have the equipment here to tell if it is operating properly. I will call you back
Wigen uses the teletype to query Sault Sainte Marie. The Soo tells him that their monitoring equipment show the beacon and light are out. He makes contact with the Fitzgerald.
"Fitzgerald. We've had a power failure. Both the Whitefish beacon and light are inoperative."
"Okay, thanks. We were just wondering, because we hadn't been able to get it for a while."
Wigen would later testify "Everybody sounded like they were in real good spirits."
Between 4:30 - 5:00 PM
The Fitzgerald calls on the radio for "any vessel in the vicinity of Whitefish Point" for information on the status of the Whitefish beacon and light. They are answered by the pilot, Woodard, on the upbound saltwater vessel Avafors. Woodard knew McSorley but didn't recognize the voice.
"Who am I speaking to?"
"This is Captain McSorley."
"I didn't recognize your voice."
Woodard informs McSorley the neither the beacon nor the light are operative.
Log of the Anderson
NE of Caribou Island, winds NW at 52 knots
Just after 5:00 PM
The Fitzgerald radios the Anderson again, asking
for a position.
probably between 5:30 - 6:00 PM
Captain Cedric on the Avafors radios the Fitzgerald.
"Fitzgerald, this is the Avafors. I have the Whitefish light now but still am receiving no beacon. Over."
"I'm very glad to hear it."
"The wind is really howling down here. What are the conditions where you are?"
[shouted on the bridge of the Fitz, heard by the Avafors] "DON'T LET NOBODY ON DECK!" [unintelligible] "vents"
"What's that, Fitzgerald? Unclear. Over".
"I have a bad list, lost both radars. And am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever been in."
"If I'm correct, you have two radars."
"They're both gone."
The Anderson's first mate calls the Fitzgerald.
"What course are you steering? You are widening out a little to the left of our heading marker."
"We are steering 141."
It was the same course the Anderson was holding. Clark was puzzled
why the Fitzgerald was pulling to the left.
Sometime before 7:00 PM
The Anderson is struck by two huge waves that put green water on the pilot house, 35 feet above the water line. The waves hit with enough force to push the starboard lifeboat down on its saddles, damaging the bottom.
Weather report from the Anderson
Winds from 300 at 50 knots, waves of 16 feet.
No weather report is received from the Fitzgerald.
About 7:00 PM
Clark calls the Fitzgerald again.
"I am picking up the highland at Crisp Point. We're twenty-five miles from it, and you are ten miles ahead; you are fifteen miles from Crips Point.
"We haven't got far to go; we will soon have it made."
"Yes, we will."
"It's a hell of a night for the Whitefish beacon to not be operating."
"It sure is."
7:10 PM The Anderson is still following the Fitzgerald, now at a distance of about 10 miles. Captain Cooper is momentarily off the bridge. The first mate of the Anderson radios Captain McSorley on the Fitzgerald to inform him of an upbound vessel. "Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?" "Yes we have." "Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you." "Well, am I going to clear?" "Yes. He is going to pass to the west of you" "Well, fine." "By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problem?" "We are holding our own." "Okay, fine. I'll be talking to you later."
Morgan Clark is wrong. The Fitzgerald has made its last radio transmission.
Hm. When I click on it, right now, it works fine. Sorry.
http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/5717752.html November 10, 2005 Remembering the Fitzgerald(30th anniversary of the wreck) Star Tribune
http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/5718161.html 11-9-05 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Author says what caused Fitzgerald to sink is still uncertain AP
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/13098640.htm 11-6-05 Pioneer Press
MANITOWOC. Wis. - The author of a book on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald says it is still uncertain what caused the ore ship to sink Nov. 10, 1975, in Lake Superior. "Maybe space aliens caused the sinking," Fred Stonehouse said at gathering at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum on the topic, drawing laughs from some in the audience. "That's as good a theory as any of the others. You can't prove any of them." But Stonehouse, whose book "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" has sold about 250,000 copies, acknowledged the theory with the most supporters is that the 729-foot ship struck shoals near Caribou Island in a storm with waves as high as 35 feet and winds of 90 mph. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Remember the wrecks
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/living/columnists/beth_gauper/13074305.htm Beth Gauper, Pioneer Press 11-6-05 In 1975, the gales of November came early. It was 30 years ago Thursday that the seemingly indestructible Edmund Fitzgerald foundered in a vicious storm and took a dive for the bottom, carrying its captain and 28 crewmen with it. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald: 'Just a shame they lost it'
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/13083893.htm Pioneer Press GREGG AAMOT Associated Press 11-4-2005
HERMANTOWN, Minn. - On the basement stairwell in Armand Johnson's home, among a dozen paintings and photographs of Great Lakes cargo ships, hangs a watercolor of the most famous ship he ever rode. The painting of the Edmund Fitzgerald - a red and white vessel gliding along light blue water - is a tranquil portrait that eases memories of the ship's violent end. "There was no nicer boat," Johnson said. "The Edmund Fitzgerald was the flagship of Oglebay Norton. There was never any noticeable problems with that boat. It's just a shame that they lost it." Looking away, he added: "It was a big sea, a big storm." -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lightfoot ballad helps keep alive memory of Edmund Fitzgerald http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/13083746.htm MIKE HOUSEHOLDER Associated Press Pioneer Press
DETROIT - It has been described in many ways: Haunting. Comforting. Powerful. Educational. But one thing is certain. Gordon Lightfoot's song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," has kept alive the memory of 29 men who lost their lives on Nov. 10, 1975 when the ore carrier plunged to the bottom of Lake Superior during a nasty storm. "In large measure, his song is the reason we remember the Edmund Fitzgerald," said maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse. "That single ballad has made such a powerful contribution to the legend of the Great Lakes."
thats great. thanks
Me neither. Hell on earth might come close to describing it.
Once I visited Pictured Rocks Natl Lakeshore and took a small plane tour of the area. We were astounded at the number of shipwrecks clearly visible under the crystal clear Superior water.
I also recall a story I was told by a guy who's family rented a boat out on Superior when he was a kid. A storm squall came up when they were still out and the waves quickly became very high. There was nothing to do but aim the bow straight into the waves and maneuver as best they could toward shore. Although they made it, it was a terrifying experience for them.
Bump for the memory of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
If you close your eyes and listen to that song, you can almost hear the wind blowing and feel the ship pitching beneath you. Truly one of the more imagery-provoking songs in memory.
Oh. I'm sorry, that works for me, too. :-)
But it's only a few seconds, anyway. You're not missing much. I don't have a copy of that song and couldn't find any other links for it last night.