SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven will host a free viewing party next week to take in the ceremony honoring the men lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The closed ceremony is conducted annually by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, Michigan — about 17 miles away from where the freighter sank in Lake Superior.
A live stream of the event will be shown in the South Haven museum’s R.B. Annis Gallery. They will also have a special display of their materials related to the event, and curatorial specialist Eric Harmsen will be there to answer questions.
The ceremony will be held on Friday, Nov. 10, the 48th anniversary of the ship’s demise. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for museum members and 6:30 p.m. for non-members. The ceremony is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
At 729 feet, the giant freighter was one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes, regularly hauling iron ore pellets across the region. It was a popular fixture at the Soo Locks and other boat watching points.
The Edmund Fitzgerald left for its final voyage on Nov. 9, leaving Superior, Wisconsin, for a steel mill near Detroit. The next day, the Fitzgerald, alongside a fellow freighter — the Arthur M. Anderson — encountered a major storm on Lake Superior.
Capt. Ernest McSorley radioed the Anderson, saying, “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.”
In his final received message, which came at 7:10 p.m., McSorley simply said, “We are holding our own.”
What caused the shipwreck is still a mystery, although there are several theories. The Edmund Fitzgerald was found four days later by a U.S. Navy aircraft near Whitefish Bay. The ship was split in half and sits on the lake floor about 530 feet below the surface, approximately 17 miles away from Sault Ste. Marie. All 29 members of the crew were lost. No bodies were ever recovered.
The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald triggered several changes for the shipping industry. A Coast Guard investigation found 15 recommendations that could have helped the ship and its crew, including mandatory survival suits and emergency radio beacons. Information obtained from the wreck also helped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration devise a more accurate method for predicting wave heights.