SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29. When launched on June 7, 1958, she was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes and she remains the largest to have sunk there.
Crossing Lake Superior at about 13 knots, the boats encountered a massive winter storm. The 729-foot vessel vanished from radar screens as winds of hurricane force — of 75 miles per hour — raised waves to 25 feet in 42-degree weather. Because of the storm, the Soo Locks were closed. The freighters altered their courses northward, seeking shelter along the Canadian coast. Later, they would cross to Whitefish Bay and approach the Sault Ste. Marie locks.
On the afternoon of November 10th the Fitzgerald reported a minor list developing and top-side damage including the loss of radar, but did not indicate a serious problem. She slowed to come within range of receiving Anderson´s radar data and for a time Anderson guided the Fitzgerald toward the relative safety of Whitefish Bay.
The last communication from the boat came at approximately 19:10 (7:10 PM), when Anderson notified Fitzgerald of being hit by rogue waves or perhaps seiche waves large enough to be caught on radar, that were heading Fitzgerald´s way. A few minutes later, she suddenly sank – no distress signal was received. A short ten minutes later Anderson could neither raise Fitzgerald nor detect her on radar. At 20:32, Anderson informed the U.S. Coast Guard of their concern for the boat.
Once Anderson noted the loss of Fitzgerald, a search was launched for survivors. The initial search consisted of Anderson and a second freighter, SS William Clay Ford. The efforts of a third freighter, the Canadian vessel Hilda Marjanne, were foiled by the weather.
The U.S. Coast Guard launched three aircraft, but could not mobilize any ships. A Coast Guard buoy tender, Woodrush, was able to launch within two and a half hours, but took a day to arrive. The search recovered debris, including lifeboats and rafts, but no survivors.