Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Edmund Fitzgerald ~ Lost 40 Years Ago

Nicknamed the "Toledo Express" the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the "workhorse" of the Great Lakes, and by many accounts she was Toledo's ship.  Many crew members called the Toledo area and northern Ohio home.  Often setting and breaking records for hauls on the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald was know for hauling taconite iron ore.  She was the largest ship on the Great Lakes when launched in 1958.
The Edmund Fitzgerald -- Image by R. LeLievre
An historic Great Lakes storm of November 9-10 of 1975 sunk the infamous Great Lakes freighter -- which to this day remains the largest vessel lost on the Great Lakes.  That evening 29 souls were lost, many of which hailed from the Toledo area.

Likely path of the Edmund Fitzgerald and the SS Arthur Andersen
Reexamination of the 9–10 November 1975 “Edmund Fitzgerald” Storm Using Today’s Technology BY THOMAS R. HULTQUIST, MICHAEL R. DUTTER, AND DAVID J. SCHWAB can be found by clicking HERE.

Initially, the track to the Fitzgerald was protected by the Canadian shoreline of Lake Superior.  Late into the evening of November 10th, the winds shifted to a northwest direction which left the Edmund Fitzgerald more exposed to high winds and waves. (Note the approximate location with wind)  The result was catastrophic the rapid increase in wind and waves into the afternoon and evening of November 10th, 1975 doomed the Fitzgerald.   See the newly reanalyzed wind and waves below to help recapture the historic weather conditions:

Reanalysis of modeled waves valid from 1 pm EST on November 9th, 1975 through 10 pm EST on November 10th, 1975. ~Source: Hultquist, et al
Reanalysis of modeled winds and waves valid from 1 pm EST on November 9th, 1975 through 10 pm EST on November 10th, 1975. ~Source Hultquist, et al

Modeled Winds at 7 pm EST November 10, 1975. Purple denotes winds near storm force (45+ kt). Hultquist, et al

Modeled Waves at 7 pm EST November 10, 1975. Maximum waves of 25+ ft are near where the Fitzgerald was lost. Hultquist, et al
One of the leading theories states that a group of rogue waves (typically in sets of three) often referred to as "three sisters" may have struck the Fitzgerald. This may have possibly fractured the hull in half as the ship was suspended in between the crest of two waves.  The Arthur M. Anderson reported winds of 57 mph (close to the 54 mph simulated analysis).  Further wind gust to 86 mph were reported.  Waves -- both simulated and reported --  exceeded 25 feet with the Arthur M Anderson recounting a series of rogue waves nearing 35 feet headed in the direction of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  Minutes later, just after 7 PM on the 10th of November, the hull of the Edmund Fitzgerald fractured in half.  Reaching its final resting place, it laid in two pieces on the bottom of Lake Superior with all 29 crew members lost to sea.

~Meteorologist Chris Vickers