Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Live on Big Fritz

35 years ago, the greatest Great Lakes maritime wreck occurred. At approximately 7:20 pm, November 10th, 1975, the Edmond Fitzgerald went down in Lake Superior. With a mere 17 miles (15 nm) to go until they reached the relative safety of Whitefish Bay, The Big Fritz succumbed to a severe storm with wind gusts of up to 100 MPH and waves as high as 35 feet. As no distress signals were sent, the true cause of the Fitzgerald going down will never be known.

As a born and breed Wisconsinite, the tale of the Fitzgerald is well known to me and most folks in the Great Lakes area. What really brings this home is the storm we had just 15 days ago. It was a almost identical storm to the one that brought the Fitz down. Just experiencing that storm on land gives me new respect of what happened on that lake that night.

29 men went down that night. 29 men who were just doing their jobs. The youngest, Watchman Karl A. Peckol, was just 20 years old when the ship went down. With the current glorification of blue collar workers in tough jobs, I hope that the memory of the Fitzgerald and other wrecks on the Great Lakes will live on. Even though Great Lakes shipping isn't what it once was, the men who still ply the mostly calm, but often deadly, waters of those inland seas take a great risk just to make their way in life.

So, as my last thought, I leave you with the words and music of Gordon Lightfoot...

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