Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore, twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well-seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made the tattle-tale sound
And the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
T'was the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin'
When afternoon came, it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When supper time came, the old cook came on deck sayin'
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good to know ya'
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go, as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early!

Written By: Gordon Lightfoot

~I was raised in (and still live in) the Great Lakes region. I remember this tragedy. I have been to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, just beyond where the Fitzgerald went down. The museum continues to remember the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck with an annual ceremony. The bell is rung 29 times, once for each member of the Edmund Fitzgerald crew, and a 30th time for all who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes. It is with great respect that I remember and honour the crew of The Edmund Fitzgerald, lost to the gales of November 10, 1975.~


  1. One of my favourite songs, for sure. Thanks for reminding me, and remembering as well. :)

    1. Thank you, Ken. They deserve to be remembered.

  2. a great song to remember a tragedy.

    1. It is a great song. What we need to remember is the men, the lives lost. The history of the Great Lakes is fascinating, extensive, and important. These men were/are worth remembering.

  3. A sobering reminder of all who risk their lives working on the water, and those who have lost when the odds went against them.

    1. Thank you, Mimi. I respect the brave souls who risk their lives in such an honourable way.

  4. Great song. I remember hearing about it as a young child. Since we are on lake Michigan, we know how rough those water can be at times.

    1. I was in ROTC, so we were out of Great Lakes Naval Station. It affected us all.

  5. Probably the most well-known ballad of our generation. I remember it well. A sobering message for the perils of people just trying to do their jobs and feed their families. I cannot imagine being a shipman's wife always waiting for the ship to come safely in. We must love, laugh, and cherish each other, knowing how very suddenly things can end. Great tribute post, Annie!

  6. I always love that song. It tells a great story. Thanks,

  7. They taught that song to us in school. (I lived along Lake Superior.) It's so important to remember those men.

  8. Thanks for the reminder and tribute.

  9. My husband is from Thunder Bay so this song has great meaning for him. A great song from a Canadian songwriting Legend! Thank you for remembering and honouring them.