Tuesday, November 10, 2015

40 Years Ago

The Wreck of 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 anyone 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 have spent most of my life in the Great Lakes region. I remember this tragedy well. I have been to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum , just beyond where the Fitzgerald went down. Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, 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. The song, and mention of the story, always makes me tear up. May they rest in peace.

  2. i grew up with the song but had no idea it was so recent history.

  3. I don't think I have ever heard the song...but wait...now listening to it...I have...but I think I thought it was always just a song...so sad...so haunting..

  4. That song has always touched me. All those poor men lost in the ship wreck. What a horrible way to go.

    Bless you Annie.

  5. ~~~~~~~~

  6. Excellent post. I remember that song came out when I was a kid and it always made me sad- still does.

  7. I feel in love with da UP and da big lake when I lived up there (college). I even worked on a ferry boat crossing the lake every day one summer. Amazing the moods of that lake, some days it was calm as glass and other days the wind would whip and the waves would roil. Lake has a life of its own. I love this song and find it a lovely memorial to such a sad tragedy.

  8. Naturally in Canada, we are very familiar with this song by Lightfoot and the tragedy. Hubby is from Thunder Bay, which is on Lake Superior, so he has been to memorials and museums too. Amazing lyrics by Lightfoot ensure that these men will never be forgotten.

  9. I have always loved this song- but I never really paid any attention to the history of it until I was older. It is sad. Hope all is well with you and yours. I have been busy being a complete sack of potatoes lately it seems and am just now getting back to my blog and to visiting everyone. Have a good weekend!

  10. I know neither the song, nor the story, but I guess that is no big wonder, right? I haven't even been to the Great Lakes yet. I touched down in Chicago a couple of times, oh, and Toronto, but that was as close as I came.

  11. I never knew about that song. Thank you for sharing the background about it, and the tragic event on which it was based.

  12. This story always ripped my heart out and then I saw the movie with George Clooney and it was over.