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S/S EDMUND FITZGERALD 42 years ago today


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Most people know about the FITZ from Gordon Lighfoot's song of the same name.  This from a shipping industry site:

 

SS Edmund Fitzgerald - 10 November 1975

On 10 November 1975, the laker Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior with a loss of all 29 hands. It was one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes, carrying over 26,000 tons of taconite ore between Duluth/Superior and the steel mills to the south. The "Fitz" had departed on 9 November in tandem with another laker, but sailed directly into an early winter storm. It sank suddenly, without making a distress call, at about 7:30 p.m., in heavy snow with winds gusting to hurricane force and seas exceeding 30 feet in height. Gordon Lightfoot memorialized the casualty in his hit song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".

What isn't as much publicized is that two other Lakers left safe harbor to go out and search for the FITZ, at night in horrible weather.  One of them, the ARTHUR ANDERSEN, had just finished the same voyage near the FITZ and the crew were exhausted, but they still went back out, as did the CLAY FORD, who got steam up and went out, both of them into a huge head sea.  There could easily have been two more ships sunk.

Unfortunately there was nothing for them to find, except some flotsam. 

 

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And I'd always thought, until a few years ago, that this all had happened back in the 30s................. Amazing that it was basically a contemporary story when the song was a hit.

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6 hours ago, SailBlueH2O said:

part of the story was that the ship had been cut and expanded....you never know when you go to sea~~~

That is a completely untrue, or fake news if you will  :)  The Fitz was 729 feet long and 75 feet wide for its entire life.  What was changed was the load line that allowed an additional 4000 tons of cargo to be carried aboard and reduced the available freeboard.

MS

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1 hour ago, Mr. Squirrel said:

That is a completely untrue, or fake news if you will  :)  The Fitz was 729 feet long and 75 feet wide for its entire life.  What was changed was the load line that allowed an additional 4000 tons of cargo to be carried aboard and reduced the available freeboard.

MS

Oh well then.  I guess that makes it O.K. then.

Load capacity before crew safety is only an issue if it does not include LOA.

Dead seaman be dammed!  

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2 hours ago, Mr. Squirrel said:

That is a completely untrue, or fake news if you will  :)  The Fitz was 729 feet long and 75 feet wide for its entire life.  What was changed was the load line that allowed an additional 4000 tons of cargo to be carried aboard and reduced the available freeboard.

MS

 So they just added more weight and changed the waterline? And that made her sea worthy? Raising a paint line?  No additional modifications?? WTF is up with that???

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6 hours ago, Mr. Squirrel said:

That is a completely untrue, or fake news if you will  :)  The Fitz was 729 feet long and 75 feet wide for its entire life.  What was changed was the load line that allowed an additional 4000 tons of cargo to be carried aboard and reduced the available freeboard.

MS

Was it a general change in freeboard rules for the lakes or specific to the Fitzgerald?

Do you have a reference?

Draft on the lakes is constricted to dredged depths, I am a little surprised you could add that much cargo to the original design and get through St. Clair.

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I was at the SNAME section meeting when the Coast Guard gave their report on the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking.  The ship operators disagreed with the CG findings and were concerned that expensive new regulations were going to result.  The audience was actively booing the Coast Guard presenters - I've never seen anything like that at a technical conference.

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I have found several references to the changes in load line.  According to the book "Lake Superior Shipwrecks" written by Julius Wolff, the owners of the Edmund Fitzgerald convinced the USCG in to move the load line a total of 3.25 feet, over the years 1969 - 1973, allowing about 4000 additional tons to be carried aboard.  There are also references to the load line change on the EF wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Edmund_Fitzgerald) and a article published by Dr. Steve Ackerman of the University of Wisconsin - http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/fitz.html.

MS

 

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10 November

from the NTSB report:

"Loading was completed about 1415 on November 9. The chief mate informed dock personnel that the vessel’s final drafts were 27 feet 2 inches forward and 27 feet 6 inches aft. Drafts were taken after receipt of the taconite pellets and 50,013 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil, delivered by a barge which came alongside while the cargo was being loaded."

"After her delivery in 1958, the FITZGERALD operated essentially unchanged until 1969 when a diesel-powered bow thruster was installed. During the winter of 1971-1972, the main propulsion plant was converted from coal to oil and the coal bunkers were converted to fuel oil tanks. An automatic boiler combustion and feed-water control system was installed as part of this conversion."

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12 hours ago, ExOmo said:

10 November

from the NTSB report:

"Loading was completed about 1415 on November 9. The chief mate informed dock personnel that the vessel’s final drafts were 27 feet 2 inches forward and 27 feet 6 inches aft. Drafts were taken after receipt of the taconite pellets and 50,013 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil, delivered by a barge which came alongside while the cargo was being loaded."

"After her delivery in 1958, the FITZGERALD operated essentially unchanged until 1969 when a diesel-powered bow thruster was installed. During the winter of 1971-1972, the main propulsion plant was converted from coal to oil and the coal bunkers were converted to fuel oil tanks. An automatic boiler combustion and feed-water control system was installed as part of this conversion."

Keep reading....  From the same NTSB report

"Between 1958 and 1973, the FITZGERALD was permitted three reductions in the minimum freeboard required by 46 CFR Part 45. (Freeboard on the FITZGERALD was the distance from the maximum draft permitted to the weather deck at side.) A comparison of the requirements for Great Lakes cargo vessels and those for vessels operating on the oceans shows that for vessels of similar dimensions, the freeboard required for a Great Lakes Load Line and that required for ocean service would be approximately the same."

MS

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I thought it was pretty well accepted that an improperly dogged hatch cover washed away and caused the sinking.

Didn't they find anything out when the wreck was discovered a while back?

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2 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

I thought it was pretty well accepted that an improperly dogged hatch cover washed away and caused the sinking.

Didn't they find anything out when the wreck was discovered a while back?

It was found to be Filled to the top of the pilothouse with water :)

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3 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

I thought it was pretty well accepted that an improperly dogged hatch cover washed away and caused the sinking.

Didn't they find anything out when the wreck was discovered a while back?

From Wikipedia 

The No. 1 hatch cover was entirely inside the No. 1 hatch and showed indications of buckling from external loading. Sections of the coaming in way of the No. 1 hatch were fractured and buckled inward. The No. 2 hatch cover was missing and the coaming on the No. 2 hatch was fractured and buckled. Hatches Nos. 3 and 4 were covered with mud; one corner of hatch cover No. 3 could be seen in place. Hatch cover No. 5 was missing. A series of 16 consecutive hatch cover clamps were observed on the No. 5 hatch coaming. Of this series, the first and eighth were distorted or broken. All of the 14 other clamps were undamaged and in the open position. The No. 6 hatch was open and a hatch cover was standing on end vertically in the hatch. The hatch covers were missing from hatches Nos. 7 and 8 and both coamings were fractured and severely distorted. The bow section abruptly ended just aft of hatch No. 8 and the deck plating was ripped up from the separation to the forward end of hatch No. 7.[112]

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Load lines?  We don't need no stinkin' load lines......  The Great Lakes are scattered with ship wrecks with approximately 6000 ships and 30,000 lives lost.  (Wikipedia - Great Lakes Shipwrecks)  Summer storms are bad enough (witness the recent Chicago-Mac races), but through the years the lake schooners ran from March to November.  Overloading was always an issue.  Here is a photo of my great-grandfathers lumber schooner that ran between Sheboygan, WI and Charlevoix, MI loaded to the gills on Round Lake (Charlevoix) prior to a run.  Her hold would be full of hardwood along with her decks.....looks like they would sail with the mains reefed so they could get the booms above the cargo line.  He did this for 20 years (1898 to 1918) and made it through alive.  The schooner was a "black cat" as she capsized with all lives lost prior to him purchasing the schooner and again capsized with all lives lost after he sold her......

image.thumb.png.b97e4e50152a13142ba9a477342475e4.png

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On 11/14/2017 at 12:06 PM, Huggy Bear Brown said:

Load lines?  We don't need no stinkin' load lines......  The Great Lakes are scattered with ship wrecks with approximately 6000 ships and 30,000 lives lost.  (Wikipedia - Great Lakes Shipwrecks)  Summer storms are bad enough (witness the recent Chicago-Mac races), but through the years the lake schooners ran from March to November.  Overloading was always an issue.  Here is a photo of my great-grandfathers lumber schooner that ran between Sheboygan, WI and Charlevoix, MI loaded to the gills on Round Lake (Charlevoix) prior to a run.  Her hold would be full of hardwood along with her decks.....looks like they would sail with the mains reefed so they could get the booms above the cargo line.  He did this for 20 years (1898 to 1918) and made it through alive.  The schooner was a "black cat" as she capsized with all lives lost prior to him purchasing the schooner and again capsized with all lives lost after he sold her......

image.thumb.png.b97e4e50152a13142ba9a477342475e4.png

I’d love to know great grandpa’s ship’s name. I live in Sheboygan, and have always been fascinated with the old school boats that helped build this city. When we dredged the harbor awhile back, we even found an old shipwreck dead smack in the middle of our current harbor by accident. For years, when water levels were low, our Lightning fleet would tell stories of smacking the centerboard on something in the middle of the harbor. No one ever believed us. Then the dredgers found the Lottie Cooper right where everyone hit. The whole thing got hauled out and sits on display now. 

 

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On 11/16/2017 at 6:00 PM, Monkey said:

I’d love to know great grandpa’s ship’s name. I live in Sheboygan, and have always been fascinated with the old school boats that helped build this city. When we dredged the harbor awhile back, we even found an old shipwreck dead smack in the middle of our current harbor by accident. For years, when water levels were low, our Lightning fleet would tell stories of smacking the centerboard on something in the middle of the harbor. No one ever believed us. Then the dredgers found the Lottie Cooper right where everyone hit. The whole thing got hauled out and sits on display now. 

 

I have a collection shipwreck pieces I've found over the years. The only one I can attribute is to a tug that caught fire by the channel, the Lewis Wallace. The most interesting piece I found while looking for petoskeys as a kid. It still has the big square nail in it. As the wood dried, the nail came loose and you can now pull it out of its hole.

This is close to my cottage. Not my photo.

17037403100_c36c3c8e82_b.jpg

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  • 1 year later...

I have a friend who has found maybe  a dozen wrecks. He does research then carefully searches with sonar. Dives or now arranges dives on the site. He documents and then notifies the state. Interesting avocation. 

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Looking at the WX, I'll probably see the 3 sisters/witches this weekend. If I do, I'll try to get a pic. Nobody ever believes me when I say they exist but they do.

They're a set of 3 rouge waves that pile down the Lake from north to south. I've only seen them in November. Anyhow, they're huge. - I'm not sure how big but I'd venture over 30'.

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15 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

That has to be the most mournful song ever.

Quote

the song is dedicated, was a young seaman on the Nantucket whaler Essex, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820. In the aftermath of the wreck, Coffin was shot and eaten by his shipmates. The story of the Essex was recorded by its First Mate Owen Chase, one of eight survivors, in his 1821 Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex

 

 

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On 11/13/2017 at 12:21 AM, captpiratedog said:

 I thought water had been getting into the hold from some of hatches not being totally battened down which caused it to flounder then big waves over shallow water finished it.. 

Some of the Great Lakes are shallow, Superior isn't.  The maximum depth of Lake Superior is a little over 1,300' average depth is 480'.  Lake Erie, she shallowest of the Great lakes is 210' and average is 62'.  There was a storm warning on Lake Superior and the Arthur Anderson which was about 15 miles behind the Fitz reported sustained winds of up to 58 knots and gusts up to 75 knots as well as 25' waves and rogue waves up to 35'. The ship was listing and taking on water.  It wasn't beauty that killed the beast, it was very bad weather.  

People who have never experienced a storm on the Great Lakes tend to scoff at sea conditions because they are 'lakes'.  I grew up on the south shore of Lake Erie and  I have seen 15' + waves from the shore during a good storm.  Because the Great Lakes aren't as vast as the oceans, and the Great Lakes are relatively narrow. The seas on the lakes tend to have a very short period, you don't see the big rolling swells that you find in the oceans.  Even 4'-6' short period waves can be very unpleasant in a smaller boat, you plow through them rather than ride over them.

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  • 11 months later...

Anniversary again today. 

While not quite as nasty as 1975, the upper Midwest is seeing significant weather change today after highs in 70's Tuesday, and 30's -50's today, depending on location.  Winds expected to howl tonight with passage of low pressure system. Wind advisories on shore, gale warnings tonight on Lake Michigan with waves to 21 feet.  Safe travels to the Great Lakes fleet out there.

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Forecast for Upper Lake Michigan tonight looks nasty.

Tonight: ENE wind 20 to 25 kt becoming SW 30 to 35 kt after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 45 kt. Showers and possibly a thunderstorm before midnight, then a chance of showers between midnight and 1am. Waves 5 ft building to 14 ft.

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On 11/11/2019 at 6:16 AM, austin1972 said:

Looking at the WX, I'll probably see the 3 sisters/witches this weekend. If I do, I'll try to get a pic. Nobody ever believes me when I say they exist but they do.

They're a set of 3 rouge waves that pile down the Lake from north to south. I've only seen them in November. Anyhow, they're huge. - I'm not sure how big but I'd venture over 30'.

So hard to have the camera ready at that exact moment.   And waves on a photo always look so much smaller.

Good luck this year!

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RIP to the crew of the Edmund Fitz!  (except that snowflake cook-- i bet his ass found a way to make some dinner for himself... lol j/k)

The chokes me up everytime! Cant imagine what is was like going down on Lake Superior that day

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On 11/11/2019 at 3:17 PM, Ed Lada said:

Some of the Great Lakes are shallow, Superior isn't.  The maximum depth of Lake Superior is a little over 1,300' average depth is 480'.  Lake Erie, she shallowest of the Great lakes is 210' and average is 62'.  There was a storm warning on Lake Superior and the Arthur Anderson which was about 15 miles behind the Fitz reported sustained winds of up to 58 knots and gusts up to 75 knots as well as 25' waves and rogue waves up to 35'. The ship was listing and taking on water.  It wasn't beauty that killed the beast, it was very bad weather.  

People who have never experienced a storm on the Great Lakes tend to scoff at sea conditions because they are 'lakes'.  I grew up on the south shore of Lake Erie and  I have seen 15' + waves from the shore during a good storm.  Because the Great Lakes aren't as vast as the oceans, and the Great Lakes are relatively narrow. The seas on the lakes tend to have a very short period, you don't see the big rolling swells that you find in the oceans.  Even 4'-6' short period waves can be very unpleasant in a smaller boat, you plow through them rather than ride over them.

There was a Cruising Anarchy thread a few years ago setting parameters for a Great Lakes Cruiser.  Part of the discussion was the short wave pattern and waterline length.

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I'm doing some design work on a Laker right now, being considered for coastal routes on the US & Canada East Coast. It will be restricted to 5m waves and no more than 25m from shore. The premise is that in bad weather, you don't leave or you head for port.

The L/B is ~9:1. The Lloyds Rules only envision 6:1 as the maximum, so the proportions of Lakers are very unusual to say the least. Big real ocean waves would sink them due to bending. Normally not a problem on the Great Lakes.

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On 11/11/2017 at 5:25 AM, floating dutchman said:

Oh well then.  I guess that makes it O.K. then.

Load capacity before crew safety is only an issue if it does not include LOA.

Dead seaman be dammed!  

Sure it is.    take a peek at Cruz'n Anarchy where the fix of adding 2 tons of shit for a real voyage is to move the boot stripe and antifouling paint up 4 inches before calling it good    :<)

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  • 11 months later...
8 minutes ago, M@AYC said:

"holding our own"... ole Ernie Mcsorely didn't really believe that, did he?  Was he too proud to call for help? 

"We're probably screwed but we're still afloat"

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Right on time.  Kind of a creepy coincidence.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/11/10/atmospheric-river-midwest-november-witch/

"A coast-to-coast storm system is bringing every imaginable type of weather, from severe thunderstorms to strong winds to snow, as it transits the nation. ...

Powerful windy storms that intensify in the Upper Midwest at this time of year have earned the moniker “witches of November.” They were referenced in the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” commemorating the storm that sank a freighter on Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975, with the entire crew of 29 perishing."

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I started driving a small (75') barge ferry about 3 years ago. Ours is the only one with the pilothouse on the front of the barge. A point that is not lost on me when we are at the upper range of wind and wave (25 knots and 8-10' seas).

We also have a much smaller version of the witches that roll in with strong Southerlies. You'll be quartering through the seas (8-10') and and 3 Bitches (witches) (12-14') will come off the corner of Lopez and roll up the straits about 30 degree angle from the other seas. Can mess you up if you're not ready for them.

I cannot imagine the ride those lakers go through on a 600-700' vessel in 30' seas. The drop into the troughs has to be almost unnerving. I got caught out a couple of weeks ago when it was a bit sportier than forecast (38 gusting to 45 and 12' seas) and dropped into a couple of troughs where I thought "Crap, I have no idea whats about to happen".

My hats to those who ply the big waters for a career. I'm content with my inland water routine! Even when things go pear shaped, I'm only 30 minutes from a safe harbor. 

 

 

 

WL

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4 hours ago, White Lightning2 said:

I started driving a small (75') barge ferry about 3 years ago. Ours is the only one with the pilothouse on the front of the barge. A point that is not lost on me when we are at the upper range of wind and wave (25 knots and 8-10' seas).

We also have a much smaller version of the witches that roll in with strong Southerlies. You'll be quartering through the seas (8-10') and and 3 Bitches (witches) (12-14') will come off the corner of Lopez and roll up the straits about 30 degree angle from the other seas. Can mess you up if you're not ready for them.

I cannot imagine the ride those lakers go through on a 600-700' vessel in 30' seas. The drop into the troughs has to be almost unnerving. I got caught out a couple of weeks ago when it was a bit sportier than forecast (38 gusting to 45 and 12' seas) and dropped into a couple of troughs where I thought "Crap, I have no idea whats about to happen".

My hats to those who ply the big waters for a career. I'm content with my inland water routine! Even when things go pear shaped, I'm only 30 minutes from a safe harbor. 

 

 

 

WL

Those GL bulkers are nothing but huge bathtubs, much like the supply boats I ran here in the Gulf.  They have stood the test of time operating on the GL, but even ships designed for ocean crossings go down if it gets nasty enough (i.e. El Faro).  The lakes have really short periods between waves due to the depths.  We have the same issue out here in the GOM, luckily this big drillship I'm on handles it well, even in the big stuff.

 

You push around barges for Western Towboat?

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20 minutes ago, Jkdubz808 said:

Those GL bulkers are nothing but huge bathtubs, much like the supply boats I ran here in the Gulf.  They have stood the test of time operating on the GL, but even ships designed for ocean crossings go down if it gets nasty enough (i.e. El Faro).  The lakes have really short periods between waves due to the depths.  We have the same issue out here in the GOM, luckily this big drillship I'm on handles it well, even in the big stuff.

 

You push around barges for Western Towboat?

Nope. 

Just a little barge deck ferry. I deliver fuel trucks for a few of the Islands and various other supplies.

 

WL

1.jpeg

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On 11/10/2017 at 8:43 PM, Mrleft8 said:

And I'd always thought, until a few years ago, that this all had happened back in the 30s................. Amazing that it was basically a contemporary story when the song was a hit.

I was born in 78.  Growing up the Fitz story among others were in books at my grandparents cottage on the ST Lawrence.  I read them during rainy summer days on the river.  It still took me a while to realize that I am older than the sinking.  As the books always looked old and faded.

 

I wish I was able to be there when they sold that place..  it had my favorite sign.  If God meant us to have fiberglass boats he would have planted fiberglass trees.

 

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Massey Hall is the most famous concert hall in Canada. It has hosted everyone from Winston Churchill (I suspect he didn't sing), to Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. It has been closed for three years for a major refit - it opened in 1894 so work needed. Lightfoot did the last concert before its closure. He will do the first concert (actually three nights) when MH reopens later in November. Lightfoot, who is 83, has appeared at MH more than 165 times. The place is sometimes called 'The House of Gord'. 'The Wreck ...' would have been performed at every concert since it was released.

Fun fact, Lightfoot and Drake are close neighbours in Toronto's most expensive neighbourhood. I keep waiting for a collaboration to appear.

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The William Clay Ford left shelter to go out and search for survivors.

The Dossin Museum on Belle Isle has the log, it was open to the page from that night the last time I was there.

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6 hours ago, peragrin said:

I was born in 78.  Growing up the Fitz story among others were in books at my grandparents cottage on the ST Lawrence.  I read them during rainy summer days on the river.  It still took me a while to realize that I am older than the sinking. 

 

Hmmm. Math is hard. Sinking was 1975.

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14 hours ago, Tax Man said:

The William Clay Ford left shelter to go out and search for survivors.

The Dossin Museum on Belle Isle has the log, it was open to the page from that night the last time I was there.

Some people go towards hard stuff when others need assistance. Its why we are all here to dabble about this and that.

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On 11/10/2021 at 4:54 PM, basketcase said:

one of the better covers, but i do love the Hip, so Im biased.

That song simply can't be covered.

The steel guitar and his voice simply can't be matched - probably the most mournful song ever sung.

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On 11/11/2021 at 8:52 AM, Lowly Crew said:
On 11/11/2021 at 2:08 AM, peragrin said:

I was born in 78.  Growing up the Fitz story among others were in books at my grandparents cottage on the ST Lawrence.  I read them during rainy summer days on the river.  It still took me a while to realize that I am older than the sinking. 

 

Hmmm. Math is hard. Sinking was 1975.

The ship was 16 when it went down.

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2 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

That song simply can't be covered.

The steel guitar and his voice simply can't be matched - probably the most mournful song ever sung.

a dirge

I can't sing the song all the way through without breaking up when I play it on guitar and sing it. Gave up.

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