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OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 2:59:37 PM   
Canoerebel


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Gents (and Lady):

While conversing with my teens the past few weeks about '70s music, I played for them Gordon Lightfoot's haunting ballad The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. They like the song - which shows they have good taste! - and wanted to know more about the wreck. I've read up on it before, but it occurs to me that the accumulated knowledge of this forum probably has more accurate insight than most anything else.

So, what caused the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?

I will pass along your words - paraphrased as best I can - to my three teenagers. The forum works in mysterious ways!

Canoe "But not on the Great Lake they Call Gitcheegoomee" Rebel

< Message edited by Canoerebel -- 6/25/2012 3:00:52 PM >
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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 3:23:07 PM   
geofflambert


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A long time ago I watched an hour long TV dissection of it, but don't remember enough to comment other than there were some interesting similarities with the loss of the Titanic. Also, how awesome those Great Lakes are!

-I'm no lady

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 3:33:10 PM   
21pzr

 

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CR;

There have been some really good TV shows about the Fitzy over the last few years, Discovery channel, I think.

Long and short answer to what happened is that she was pushing cargo from Minnesota, and was caught in a storm on Lake Superior. Most people don't realize how bad storms on the Great Lakes can be. Forensic engineering has suggested that the ship was at the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. She was crossing a relatively shallow area of the lake (she is in 530 ft of water), and the period of the waves either caused excessive sagging, or that she actually shoaled on the bottom due to the wave motion. As a result, the cargo hatches came loose, and the ship filled with water and sank.

I haven't seen the shows in a few years, but they were very good. The sinking and loss of everyone onboard led to new regulations for lakes ships, and stricter enforcement. The real culprit was the desire to extend the Great Lakes shipping season before the ship technology or safety concerns were addressed.

I am a 35+ year merchant ships Chief Engineer, who has sailed on virtually every type of seagoing ship there is, and all over the world, but the Lakes scare the c*** out of me!

Bill

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 3:41:53 PM   
oldman45


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I seem to recall that something similar, what I found most interesting is that the ships that ply the great lakes are built to different standards because of the motion of the great lakes. Worked for a CG commander and he told the story of going out on sea trials with a ore carrier. Storm came up, nothing special to any of them but what got him was watching the hull "twist" with the wave motion. Not sure I described it right. Anyway if I remember the EF sunk pretty quickly leading some people to think it was a hull breach.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 3:47:53 PM   
John 3rd


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 21pzr

CR;

There have been some really good TV shows about the Fitzy over the last few years, Discovery channel, I think.

Long and short answer to what happened is that she was pushing cargo from Minnesota, and was caught in a storm on Lake Superior. Most people don't realize how bad storms on the Great Lakes can be. Forensic engineering has suggested that the ship was at the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time. She was crossing a relatively shallow area of the lake (she is in 530 ft of water), and the period of the waves either caused excessive sagging, or that she actually shoaled on the bottom due to the wave motion. As a result, the cargo hatches came loose, and the ship filled with water and sank.

I haven't seen the shows in a few years, but they were very good. The sinking and loss of everyone onboard led to new regulations for lakes ships, and stricter enforcement. The real culprit was the desire to extend the Great Lakes shipping season before the ship technology or safety concerns were addressed.

I am a 35+ year merchant ships Chief Engineer, who has sailed on virtually every type of seagoing ship there is, and all over the world, but the Lakes scare the c*** out of me!

Bill


That is scary!


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 3:55:50 PM   
Mundy


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I lived nearly 9 years in Superior, WI.

The lake can get nasty at times. One windy day, I had taken my son to the beach at Minnesota Point, and the surf was so loud that day, that he (3 at the time) was afraid to come out to the beach.

Winters are sorta mild until the lake freezes. After that, the temperature plunges.

Ed-

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 4:27:13 PM   
crsutton


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I was was in training at our Union School in Southern Maryland when the Fitzgerald went down. There are any number of theories but frankly as of this date there is no clear pictures of how and why she sunk. I will say that she was an older ship and most likely did not have automatic hatch covers. The process for covering hatches in this era and for about the previous centuries was pretty much the same. It involved removable flat pontoons (held in place only by gravity) covered by up to three canvas tarps. The final tarp was secured to the coming by iron "battens" (batten down the hatches) old fashioned wooden wedges driven into place by a maul and then the whole deal was covered by two or three iron rods called "strongbacks" whose purpose was to keep the pontoons from falling out if the ship rolled heavily.

If done right this system would hold up in the worst weather. But if a mistake was made or done poorly then a high winds and seas could pull the canvas away causing water to drain into the hold between the pontoons or worse yet for a pontoon to slip out. If you lost a pontoon then you were in serious trouble and it could not be replaced in a raging storm. Then it becomes a question of the pumps keeping up with the inflow of sea water. I think the most accepted theory is for some unknown reason the integrity of the hatches became compromised on the Fitzgerald and she foundered.

I remember that if we were in supposedly "safe" waters and running short distances between ports that we would cheat a bit and leave a couple of layers of canvas off or only drive wedges into half of the slots in the coaming. Many times we would just leave the strongbacks off. The reason was time as it was a timely process and if you could save a little time getting ready to load and unload cargo going into the next port then you would do it. The risk was small but it was a risk none the less.

< Message edited by crsutton -- 6/25/2012 4:43:12 PM >


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 4:37:41 PM   
crsutton


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Here is a good example of a WWII era ship with her hatches covered by canvas. You can see the "strongbacks" over the top of the hatches. A close look at the Fitzgerald and I can't tell if the hatches are canvas topped but they are clearly not modern automated hatch covers. Perhaps we have a Great Lakes sailor around who can answer this.




Attachment (1)

< Message edited by crsutton -- 6/25/2012 4:45:41 PM >


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 5:57:59 PM   
moonraker65


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They were metal hatch covers on the Edmund Fitzgerald. I remember watching the Documentary on Discovery about it. They think a rogue wave knocked one hatch cover off near the bow and water started to come in. As more and more water entered through the open cover she started to get lower in the water by the head. Being as it was a ferocious storm they were caught in noone realised the hatch cover had come off and that she just suddenly took a nosedive in a swell. Extremely scary I would think

< Message edited by moonraker -- 6/28/2012 9:33:11 AM >


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 6:19:06 PM   
Cuttlefish

 

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The Fitzgerald had hatch covers made of 5/16" steel. Each cover was 54' long and 11' 7" wide and was secured by sixty-eight adjustable pivot tension clamps. They were not automated. It usually took two men about half an hour to secure a cover, using a special wrench.

I was living in Sault Ste. Marie, about 30 miles from where the ship went down, on November 10, 1976. The storm that night remains the worst one I have ever seen. I had watched Edmund Fitzgerald pass through the Soo Locks many times. At 729 feet she was, at the time, one of the biggest ore carriers on the lakes (this was shortly before the 1000-footers were introduced). It was a huge shock to the community when we learned the next morning that the Fitzgerald had gone down.

In the Soo there is an old ore carrier, the Valley Camp, which has been turned into a floating museum. It's well worth the time if you are ever in the area. Among their exhibits is part one of Fitzgerald's steel lifeboats, all that was initially found after the wreck. The boat looks as though it had been torn in half by an angry giant. It's rather sobering.


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 7:27:11 PM   
jeffk3510


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Way before my time Dan. All I know is she carrierd taconite iron ore almost exclusively. (Please correct me if I am wrong anyone.) I have heard numerous reason as to why she went down. Pretty sad deal.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 7:31:53 PM   
Schanilec

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: jeffk3510

Way before my time Dan. All I know is she carrierd taconite iron ore almost exclusively. (Please correct me if I am wrong anyone.) I have heard numerous reason as to why she went down. Pretty sad deal.

You are correct. It was taconite; from the Mesabi Iron Range.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 7:44:04 PM   
moonraker65


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Is that the Mesabi as in Duluth, Mesabi and Ironrange Railroad ?

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 8:01:08 PM   
Mundy


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Yep.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 8:51:06 PM   
wdolson

 

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Here is an article about the National Transportation Safety Board conclusion: http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-080.htm

In short, the hatch covers were not latched down and the ore got wet.

Bill

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 9:33:39 PM   
Cuttlefish

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: wdolson

Here is an article about the National Transportation Safety Board conclusion: http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-080.htm

In short, the hatch covers were not latched down and the ore got wet.

Bill


There was a strongly-worded minority report issued by one of the NTSB investigators that disagreed with the board's findings, noting that there was no evidence that the Fitzgerald had ever before shipped water through her hatch covers in heavy weather and that the captain and crew were known to be both experienced and careful. He agreed with the Coast Guard finding that the ship had probably suffered hull damage while passing over Six Fathom Shoal.

It could have happened either way, or even another way entirely. It's likely that we will never know for sure.


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 9:43:23 PM   
jeffk3510


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Thanks Bill!

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 9:50:47 PM   
mdiehl

 

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Well, and I am no shipping engineer, but it seems to me that if the wreck has been found, could not one look at the wreck to determine whether or not it was sunk because the hull was holed, versus sunk because of some sort of hatch-related flooding event?

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 10:05:05 PM   
Canoerebel


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Thanks for the comments.  Very intersting reading.  And that some of you (Cuttlefish) actually had seen the Fitzgeral, were present the storm, and knew of the loss is really fascinating.  I am also struck by the comments made about the ferocity (and "specialness") of Great Lakes storms.  I've never been up north in winter, so I have no idea what a "gale of November" would blow on Laker Superior.

I will pass your comments along to my young 'uns (and any more that are posted hereafter).

Good stuff.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 10:13:06 PM   
Cribtop


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Only other possibility I saw discussed in a TV show on the topic was that there was some chance she was caught in such rough seas that the bow is on one wave, the stern on another, and the midships area is suspended between, resulting in catastrophic hull breach from the stresses involved.



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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 10:18:38 PM   
Nikademus


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suprised anyone remembers it....or the song.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 10:20:54 PM   
Cribtop


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I was too young to know about the sinking at the time, but Gordon Lightfoot was a favorite of my best friend in High School, and the song always haunted us. Very spooky to hear from Cuttlefish that he was in the area and that it was the worst storm he could remember.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 10:27:14 PM   
Nikademus


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I was 'technically' too young as well. But i remember the song. I was humming it long before i knew what the lyrics meant other than that it was a sad tale......even a kid understands the meaning of


"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"





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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/25/2012 11:23:47 PM   
ilovestrategy


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Oh yeah, I remember the song.

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/26/2012 1:45:18 AM   
21pzr

 

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Nik;

Those of us who go down to the sea for a living usually remember nearly all the ships that have gone down and the men who paid the price. Certainly, you remember the ones during your lifetime.

Now for my unadulteredly partisan pitch. As a note to all who enjoy AE, and love to sink all the xAK's you can, remember that the US Merchant Marine (civilians) had a casualty rate for WWII that was only exceeded by the USMC. Also, the USMMA sent cadets (undergraduates) out to sea on merchant ships during the war, and 142 of them gave their lives during the war. No other federal military academy has had undergraduates killed in war, and that is why the USMMA is the only federal academy to carry a Battle Standard.

Fair winds and following seas, CRSutton;

Bill

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/26/2012 3:41:51 AM   
Skyros


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Here is a site with underwater pics.

http://www.3dfitz.com/photos/fitz+details/


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/26/2012 3:43:26 AM   
John 3rd


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Very strange and cool to look at!

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/26/2012 4:19:45 AM   
mdiehl

 

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quote:

USMMA is the only federal academy to carry a Battle Standard.


Is the Maine Maritime Academy not Federally funded then? Or is it that they just don't have a battle standard?

< Message edited by mdiehl -- 6/26/2012 4:20:56 AM >


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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/26/2012 4:54:10 AM   
CRations


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This is a pretty good link that shows a reasonable theory for the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckWRNWUAmYw&feature=related


CR

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RE: OT: The Edmund Fitzgerald - 6/26/2012 5:32:32 AM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 21pzr

Now for my unadulteredly partisan pitch. As a note to all who enjoy AE, and love to sink all the xAK's you can, remember that the US Merchant Marine (civilians) had a casualty rate for WWII that was only exceeded by the USMC.


The rate for the USN submarine service was by far the highest at about 1 in 5 KIA.

"A total of 52 submarines were lost, with 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men. These personnel losses represented 16% of the officer and 13% of the enlisted operational personnel . . .

. . . The 52 submarines represented 18% of all submarines which saw combat duty. This loss of 18%, while high in comparison to the losses sustained by other types of ships of the Allied Forces is considered remarkably low when considered in relation to the results achieved, or when compared with the losses sustained by enemy submarine forces."

http://www.valoratsea.com/losses1.htm

Cursory on-line reaearch shows the merchant marine loss rate to be about 3.9%.

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