November 10, 1995
The Detroit News
Edmund Fitzgerald's grip on hearts still powerful 20 years after sinking
Caption: Relatives, sailors and shipwreck enthusiasts remember the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the ore carrier that sunk 20 years ago today in a violent storm. The ship, shown in a 1989 underwater photo, lies at the bottom of Lake Superior, 550 feet below the surface, its hull snapped in half. All 29 men in the crew died in the disaster. The wreck of the ore carrier was made famous by Canadian balladeer Gordon Lightfoot.
By John Flesher, Associated Press:
TRAVERSE CITY -- A legend born on this date in 1975 is being marked with public ceremonies and private reflections by those who mourn 29 crewmen of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
A Lake Superior storm sank the ore carrier and everyone aboard 20 years ago today. Great Lakes sailors, victims' relatives, shipwreck buffs and others are marking the disaster's anniversary.
"We're hoping that this will help give a sense of closure for some of the family members," said Tom Farnquist, director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. It's hosting a private service for crewmen's families at the edge of the tiny peninsula on the northern Upper Peninsula.
Guests will include Canadian balladeer Gordon Lightfoot, whose song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald secured the vessel's place in modern folklore.
Also scheduled today are a memorial at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City and a banquet in Port Huron hosted by Fred Shannon, who led a submarine mission to the Fitzgerald in 1994.
In Duluth, Minn., the Lake Superior Marine Museum's annual "Gales of November Banquet" focuses on the anniversary.
Historic Mariners' Church next to Renaissance Center in Detroit, where the Rev. Richard Ingalls tolled the bell 29 times the morning after the sinking, will hold its annual memorial service at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The remembrances are testimony to the Fitzgerald's enduring grip on the public imagination.
Some relatives can't put the sadness behind them because of a seemingly endless debate over how and why the ship sank.
More recently, controversy over exploration of the Fitzgerald's gravesite and the discovery of human remains there has fired some family members' survivors with a passion to have the area declared off-limits to divers. Officials in Canada are studying the proposal; the wreck is generally believed to be in Canadian territory.
"I'm very involved with it emotionally. I can't let it go," said Cheryl Rozman of Gwinn, whose father, Ransom Cundy, was a watchman aboard the ship. "I want to be with it until the finish, when I see that it's a legalized gravesite and the men can rest."
The Fitzgerald, heading to Detroit, left from Superior, Wis., with 26,000 tons of taconite ore pellets. The next day, 30-foot waves and gusts up to 90 mph hammered the ship, which left radar screens without transmitting an SOS.
A Coast Guard investigation concluded the sinking's cause was unclear. Most likely, it said, the ship -- unstable from flooding in the cargo hold -- nosedived into a huge wave and plunged to the bottom in seconds, landing with force that snapped the vessel in two.
With the blessing of dozens of the crewmen's relatives, a team of divers recovered the ship's bell last July. It will be the centerpiece of a new memorial wing at the Whitefish Point museum scheduled for completion in 1997.
"It gives us something to touch, a place to go and pay our last respects," said Jack Champeau of Marinette, Wis., whose brother Oliver died in the wreck.
Copyright 1995, The Detroit News