Skip to comments.NTSB Accident Report - SS Edmund Fitzgerald Sinking in Lake Superior
Posted on 11/10/2018 4:51:52 AM PST by keat
SS Edmund Fitzgerald Sinking in Lake Superior
About 1915 e.s.t., on November 10, 1975, the Great Lakes bulk cargo vessel SS Edmund Fitzgerald, fully loaded with a cargo of taconite pellets, sank in eastern Lake Superior in position 46° 59.9' N, 85° 06.6' W, approximately 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay, Michigan. The ship was en route from Superior, Wisconsin, to Detroit, Michigan, and had been proceeding at reduced speed in a severe storm. All the vessel's 29 officers and crewmembers are missing and presumed dead. No distress call was heard by vessels or shore stations.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the sudden massive flooding of the cargo hold due to the collapse of one or more hatch covers. Before the hatch covers collapsed, flooding into the ballast tanks and tunnel through topside damage and flooding into the cargo hold through nonweathertight hatch covers caused a reduction of freeboard and a list. The hydrostatic and ydrodynamic forces imposed on the hatch covers by heavy boarding seas at this reduced freeboard and with the list caused the hatch covers to collapse.
Contributing to the accident was the lack of transverse watertight bulkheads in the cargo hold and the reduction of freeboard authorized by the 1969, 1971, and 1973 amendments to the Great Lakes Load Line Regulations.
One of Gordon Lightfoot’s greatest songs!
Download full report here:
I’m sure glad the Government found the cause of this in such a timely matter! Only took a few decades to get to the bottom of this!
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay, if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her!
Beau and I were just discussing this awful ‘anniversary’ over coffee this morning. What a horrible way to die. I was 15 at the time. My Dad and Grandpa were HUGE Maritime buffs, so I’ve been to plenty of museums while growing up.
This one is amazing:
I thought the long period of the swell supporting the vessel at each end produced a bending moment breaking the vessel at the center point between the supports
Had to be one hell of a storm.
My brother-in-law was hunting on Lake Butte Des Morts near Oshkosh, Wisconsin that day said the canvasbacks were coming in like crazy, then within an hour, his decoys were frozen in the lake and he barely got his boat out of the lake. Temperatures that day went from 60s to below freezing very quickly. Said the winds were steady and at least 50 mph by the time he got off the water. He thought he was going to die.
Seen the accident report. Doesnt really match the wreckage, as others have noticed. The bow is buried deep into the sediment, estimated impact speed of 45 mph. More likely than not, the Fitzgerald hit bottom after going over large wave. The site is about 250-300 feet deep. Since the world now recognizes that rogue waves are real (more than 60 foot waves do occur), this explanation and not the hatch cover failure seems more credible.
Still hard to believe a modern giant can be lost on a lake, but superior is more like an ocean than a lake, and that wasnt a simple storm.
Then there is this:
“Im sure glad the Government found the cause of this in such a timely matter! Only took a few decades to get to the bottom of this!”
Ship sinks - November, 1975
Report about cause of sinking - March, 1978.
And that could well be. They made educated guesses about the causes and there were signs of collapsed hatch covers in the wreckage. They determined it sunk whole, bow first, and broke in half when it hit bottom.
She was only 17 years old when Lake Superior ate her up. (1958-1975)
‘Lake Butte Des Morts’
I know right where that lake is, and I even know how to pronounce it correctly, LOL! Glad he got off the lake in time; it’s named that for a reason!
For Freepers struggling with this:
Your observations may be correct. I don’t believe they know for sure what happened. The hatch cover explanation is a good one.
The swells at the forward and aft ends of the ship could have produced that bending moment. Given that the ship was cut in half and lengthened some years before lends creditibilty to your point.
There is also another explanation that has been put forth-the Coast Guard or other agency went out and determined the various depths in the area where the vessel sank. There were a couple of shallow areas and with the swells, it is possible that the vessel scraped the bottom and tore a hole.
The Ed Fitz was coal fired when first built and was converted to heavy oil a few years later.
I was GM of a lake fueling business for 16 years on Duluth-Superior harbor and three north shore taconite loading docks. We operated a 149 foot fueling tanker in the harbor.
Our captain had helped put the last N6 fuel on the Fitzgerald and recalled the boat’s cook had been taken off and a replacement cook signed on.
The new cook had an ominous outlook about the trip. He thought it would be his last.
I was under the impression that it was determined it broke in half when a large wave left it partially hanging in mid air.
Thank you for that update. Now the question is why this Article got posted today.
“The new cook had an ominous outlook about the trip. He thought it would be his last.”
“Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya!”
And it was his last voyage. :(
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