Gordon Lightfoot Tune Continues To Remember The Edmund Fitzgerald Tragedy 40 Years Later

Scott Hough

It was 40 years ago today that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald last left port at 2:20 p.m. loaded with "26,116 tons of taconite pellets" and headed to Zug Island, which was located two whole lakes away in the Detroit River, according to S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online.

As the boat made its way across Lake Superior, the wind took a turn for the worse. The legendary "Gales of November," that Gordon Lightfoot sings about, were about to sweep in from the west. The National Weather Service issued a gale warning. By 1 a.m. on November 10, the wind was 52 knots. The Edmund Fitzgerald had made it only part way across Lake Superior.

The S.S. Arther M. Anderson was following about 10 miles behind the Edmund Fitzgerald on the same route when it was lost.

"I have a bad list, lost both radars. And am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever been in," was one of the last radio transmissions broadcast by the Fitzgerald to the Anderson. Sometime about 7:30 p.m. on November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald and the 29 people who were aboard seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth.

Other theories involve the sheer force of nature involved and suggest that the Edmund Fitzgerald may have bottomed-out on Six Fathom Shoal. The Fitzgerald had been involved in minor accidents that may have caused structural damage in the months and years leading up to its sinking, which may have left it vulnerable to heavy seas, as well. Another theory contends that two large waves lifted both the bow and stern, leaving the mid-section of the long boat unsupported, causing it to break in half and to be found in the manner that it was on the floor of Lake Superior.

Gordon Lightfoot was reportedly in Whitefish Point, Michigan, to meet with family members of the victims of the Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy this evening, according to 9 & 10 News.

Gordon Lightfoot released his single, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in 1976. It went on to become a smash hit and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts. The song has also become inextricably linked to the actual events in quite an uncommon manner.

"When I found out they were working on it, I thought, 'Why me? What have I done that is so great that I should deserve to have a statue, a very artistic work done?'" Lightfoot stated when asked about the statue. The widely known Canadian singer attributed his parents encouraging him to sing in a choir and take piano lessons as part of his success.

Though he hints that he doesn't have any plans to record new material, Lightfoot maintains a busy concert schedule, according to his website. Other Gordon Lightfoot hits include, "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," and "Rainy Day People."