Edmund Fitzgerald

“Every Man Knew” was commissioned from artist David Conklin by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, which has restricted prints obtainable.

You are watching: The night the fitz went down

Much of the world may not instantly remember November 10, 1975, however on Lake Superior’s shores that day still inspires memories, memorials and also chilling visions of a perilous storm and also tragic loss.

That day 29 men passed away on the inland sea, drowning in addition to their 729-foot vessel once the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald surrendered to a storm and sank 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point. The Fitz had left a Superior, Wisconsin, dock simply one day earlier, loaded through 26,116 lots of taconite pelallows bound for steel mills near Detroit. The winter blast right into which it cruised stirred snow flurries and icy 20-foot waves, sustained winds of 58 knots (66 mph) with gusts to 70 knots (80 mph) – a blizzard wrapped up in a hurricane.

While many by the Big Lake remember that day and its consequences, a couple of host memories more vivid and also personal. To increase our cumulative memory of a common tragedy, we present 2 reminiscences – one of the newsmale, former WDIO-TV anchor Dennis Anderkid, who damaged the story and also among a reexhausted sailor, Lon Callomethod, that that day rode out his first Great Lakes gale, simply 15 hours ahead of the ill-fated Fitz.

Heart of Steel, But Not of Stone

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by Dennis Anderson

“We interrupt this regime for a one-of-a-kind news bulletin; an ore carrier is lacking tonight on storm-tossed Lake Superior …”

Someone as soon as told me reporters have hearts of steel, that we don’t let emovement stand also in the method of an excellent story.

That’s not quite true. Rather, our eactivities drive us to dig out the details crucial for a good story. That’s why we ask so many inquiries, also some that seem to make little feeling.

When reporting, a force in me needs to touch the feelings of a story, not just the level details. Who are the people, the actual civilization, in the story? How are they affected?

News covers civilization at their highest or lowest; it’s about our a lot of talented, prettiest, ugliest, friendliest, a lot of heroic and also even meanest. In other words, news compiles stories around how we relate to this gift of being alive. Sometime its impact lingers long after the event.

Such was the instance in the WDIO-TV newsroom in Duluth on the night of November 10, 1975.

I started my broadcast career in 1961 as a 17-year-old on a weekly high-college radio regimen. And though I have a confront for radio, my career dragged me right into tv.

In 1975, 14 years into my work-related, Lake Superior already made its mark on me. Born and also increased in the north Minnesota city of Virginia, I flourished up much from whatever the Lake could conjure. But since selecting to work-related, play and raise a family members of 4 youngsters and also 16 grandkids in Duluth, I’ve developed a bond via the Big Lake.

You don’t have to live here long to uncover that Lake Superior has many deals with. It deserve to be cross and foreboding someday, calm and inviting the following. It is never before boring.

From a news perspective, the Lake plays many duties – cool blue relief in any summer beach story to thrashing monster qualified of leading to injury or fatality. Still, despite the Lake’s dark side, some, choose me, organize envy for those that make their living sailing that mammoth body of water. From the shore, any type of career operated aoptimal this inland also sea looks interesting. It is a brave spirit, I was tragically reminded that raw autumn night, that chooses to occupational on the Lake.

That evening in the WDIO-TV newsroom began out quiet sufficient, despite the stormy day. Television news earlier then was prefer radio through an occasional picture thrvery own in. There was no satellite live attach, no instant digital video.

Stories were composed on hands-on typeauthors and news of the exterior human being came with on a teleprinter, all filling the newsroom with a constant clickity, clickity, cabsence.

I and the few various other reporters and also film editors were preparing for a later-than-usual newscast to follow Monday Night Football. Sports fans had easily recorded football fever as soon as the Monday games premiered on ABC in 1970, developing a substantial audience for affiliated stations prefer ours.

Kansas City bested Dallas that night, 34-31, though I’d long foracquired the game (an Web search uncovered the groups and score). It was, after all, just a game and also a far even more riveting occasion would grip the attention of the Northland also before the night was over.

News establishments frequently obtain tips from viewers and readers, yet on this stormy night phone calls from two woguys alerted us to a ship in trouble on the eastern finish of Lake Superior. Both defined that they were listening to “maritime radio”; one went as much regarding say she believed an ore carrier “had actually gone down.” I don’t understand if they had household members on the Lake that night. I hope not.

That type of guideline, though, gets a reporter’s adrenaline cranked. I’d been in broadcast journalism long sufficient to understand also that no time can be wasted.

What had started as a routine Monday night turned into a scramble to confirm, from exact resources, that something vicious was happening in Whitefish Bay. An inland also hurricane had parked itself over Lake Superior that would revolve Ten November into a maritime tragedy.

I hit pay dirt on my second phone call, made to Coast Guard officials in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They shown that the 729-foot-ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald was missing and also feared dvery own. We were additionally told that one more vessel, Arthur M. Anderson, lost radio contact via the Fitz and ultimately lost sight of the ship. The Anderson was bound for Gary, Indiana, loaded via a cargo of taconite pellets in Two Harbors; the Fitz’s taconite had actually come from the Burlington Northern docks in Superior.

Captain Ernest McSorley of the Fitz and also Captain Jesse Cooper of the Anderson had preserved radar, visual and radio call with each various other while riding the storm’s 25-foot seas pushed by gale-force winds.

This gave me the crucial confirmation.

It was decision time. First, we dubbed in added aid. All of us in the newsroom had actually to gain on the phones and dig into our resources. We scrambcaused discover historical details of the vessel – when was it introduced, that owned it, what and who were on it. Over the following few days we’d make calls and pore over publications and also newsrecords to discover as a lot information as we might about the Fitzgerald, the Anderson, Whitefish Bay, Lake Superior’s maritime background and the guys on the Fitz. Tright here was no such thing as a “Google search.”

The following decision was harder. Should I go “live” on the air through a news bulletin or wait till morning when more can be known?

This was when the rubber hits the journalistic road and wright here neighborhood ties make selections tougher. I knew full well that any type of cite of the possible shipwreck might be the first alert to family members, friends and also co-employees of those on the carrier. I knew that this was a story of major prominence and also of lasting significance.

It appears even more trivial, however I additionally had actually to weigh the pros and cons of interrupting Monday Night Footround through a bulletin. With the popularity of the game, a huge share of the Northland’s audience would become privy to what we had learned. Due to the fact that we were breaking this news story, I had to be doubly sure of my facts.

Back then, it took at leastern 25 minutes to warmth up the hefty, big-tubed tv cameras. You couldn’t usage them right away so the initially announcement would be audio just.

I gathered my notes and lugged them into the broadactors audio booth. A full-screen slide announcing “News Bulletin” popped up on hundreds of television display screens, interrupting the game. The engineer in the grasp manage room gave me a “stand-by” cue then pointed his finger at me; my microphone was on. Tright here was no turning ago. It was about 9 p.m.

“We interrupt this regime for a one-of-a-kind news bulletin. Channel 10 news has actually learned …”

Over the next couple of minutes, I increated viewers throughout northern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and also a chunk of Ontario that the Edmund Fitzgerald was absent at sea.

Telephones in the newsroom began ringing instantly and also continued throughout the evening. Relatives, friends and also those via deep interemainder in the peril of sailors begged for more information.

“Say aget the name of the ship.”

“How many type of were on board?”

“Had it really sailed the previous day from Superior?”

“Are tright here civilization in lifeboats?”

“What more execute you know?”

On and on we answered calls. Some refoffered to think what they heard.

Then a contact came from the UNITED STATE Coast Guard asking our help. We announced that all crew of the Woodrush, the cutter based in Duluth, must go back to the ship instantly.

All night, we dug for details. We learned the Coast Guard dispatched two cutters, the Woodrush and the Naugatuck, from the Sault. (If memory serves me best, the Woodrush couldn’t leave instantly, as a result of heavy seas.)

Most remarkable of all, the Arthur M. Anderson, which had made it safely to port, went back right into the teeth of the storm to aid with the search.

We interrupted Monday Night Footsphere numerous more times – finally via me actually on video camera – to lug updates on the early search for the Fitz. We continued to be on the air till midnight.

That night WDIO-TV ended up being the pipeline for feeding indevelopment to the neighborhood. Looking back, I have actually never regretted my decision and have not got criticism from anyone for what or just how we reported.

It was next day prior to we knew the number of stays shed and later yet when we had names of the victims.

I still run into civilization who remember our broadcasts of November 10 and also 11, 1975, who stayed glued to their tv sets as long as we continued to be on the air.

Some that recall that live unfolding of maritime background were kids or adolescents then. Today they share via their grandyoungsters the stories and also their memories of that tragic night on Whitefish Bay.

The true story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, damaged in two and still subcombined in 530 feet of water, might never before be well-known because of disagreement over what brought about it to sink. Its past is kept alive through anniversary remembrances and also with that haunting ballad by Gordon Lightfoot played annually on neighborhood radio stations.

I came to be a witness to background, a tiny part that even 40 years hence refoffers to let me go.

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And as to the eactivities of a news reporter, I well remember attending a memorial service a couple of days after the Fitz sank. I still hear the pastor ringing the bell 29 times for each member of the crew and also then once even more for the ship itself. I’m not ashamed to say that tears flowed openly out of my eyes then, and also a lump still rises in my throat now thinking around all that transpired on that ship.