Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Gales of November Remembered

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down,
of the big lake that they call 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 crew 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 of 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 be feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
'twas the Witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and 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 suppertime came, the old cook came on deck
sayin', " Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya'."
At seven 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,
may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and 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 all Mariners know,
with the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
in a Maritime Sailor's 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 and Sung by Gordon Lightfoot, 1976,
in honour and tribute to the crew of 29 men who lost their lives,
and for the loved ones left behind.


  1. Such a sad event. It always breaks my heart that not every ship makes it back to port safely.

  2. The mom has been on Lake Superior. Not in November though. She says it is wicked.

  3. I have always been moved by this song, even when it first came out when I was a kid. Very sad.XO

  4. Very sad indeed. I didn't realize this happened on Lake Superior...thanks for the words to read.


  5. This song always makes me choke up. Such a powerful retelling of a terrible tragedy. Also, my late father was a great fan of Gordon Lightfoot.
    A little anecdote from my childhood. After having purchased one of Gordon's albums, my father was expressing how much he enjoyed the album. He said to my mother "we'll have to get all his stuff."
    My younger brother got the idea in his head that my father was talking about him, and he thought it was unfair that I wouldn't be getting any stuff. He said to my parents "she should get something too."
    It took a minute for us to understand what he was talking about, but we were all impressed that my brother was so fair-minded.

  6. We will purr for the men lost on the Edmund Fitzgerald, and for the empties they left in their loved ones' hearts.


    Gentle Cheekrubs,
    Lilith, Rosco, Tina, & Miss Lucky
    The Feline Contingent

  7. And I was just there! The waves were a bit gentler on the beach shore I was standing on, but looking out into the vast blue you could see where the water became much rougher. We thought of those men as we played the song on my phone.