A Week Of Memorializing Wrecks On The Great Lakes [Video]
Although the Edmund Fitzgerald gets most of the attention because of the Gordon Lightfoot ballad, the days in history surrounding the wreck were way more deadly on the Great Lakes.
The storm 45 years ago that brought down the giant freighter Fitzgerald was massive to be sure. Even in an age of modern communication and equipment, the big ship couldn't be saved in the wake of a west wind churning at 90 mph.
"The witch of November" is how Lightfoot described the early storm that cost 29 sailors their lives. But that term was used long before Gordon made it famous. It described early storms that were notorious in their destruction. Particularly on Great Lakes shipping.
On November 9, 1913, a massive storm referred to as "The Big Blow" sunk at least 12 freighters in the Great Lakes, mostly in Lake Huron, as winds hit 70 mph, and snow squalls caused visibility issues.
12 ships went down that night, taking hundreds of sailors with them. Some were never recovered.
Then, on November 11, 1940, another "Witch of November" blew into the Great Lakes, this time, sinking at least six ships on Lake Michigan alone, taking 66 sailors to their watery graves.
Called "The Armistice Day Blizzard", the conditions were eerily similar to those this week, with unseasonably warm weather proceeding a brutal fall storm that brought as much as 27 inches of snow to the Upper Midwest.
It is still to this day one of the strongest storms to sweep the Great Lakes in recorded history. Fortunately, communications and weather forecasting had improved since 1913, and that kept the loss of life down, as it could have been much worse.
A valiant rescue saved more than 17 men on that awful day. A documentary of the rescue is online, here's the trailer.