The Witch of November
As titled, this is my big blog of stuff, which means I can add any little random bits I wish. And today’s post is definitely random. By night I am a wannabe fiction writer but, by day, I work in the world of international container shipping. It’s an industry I’ve been in for over 14 years now. Being in this industry has definitely given me a brighter insight to how global a community we live in. It’s also given me a greater appreciation for all the bobbles and do-dads that end up on our store shelves. Early on in my career we had a vessel hit by a particularly vicious storm – something not too uncommon in the shipping world. Pictures that came back to us showed giant 40′ containers smashed in at the center to nothing. Some containers were damaged, some were destroyed, and some were washed right overboard. It was losses in the thousands of thousands. But the entire crew made it to port.
Where is she going with this, you might be asking yourself. Well, being in the industry has made me more aware of the difficulties of international shipping. But it was a song from my childhood that has always stood as the most haunting reminder of the dangers of being on the water. Of course I’m talking about The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. On the right day the song will make me cry, and the haunting retelling of the story is one that stays in your head for days after you hear it. Or is that just me? Either way, I didn’t realize until today that the fateful night was only 40 years ago today, only a few months before I was born. I humbly admit I put this wreck near the time of the Titanic, or even before. In reality it sunk November 10, 1975. The wreckage was found May 20, 1976, 535 feet below the surface, and in August of that year Gordon Lightfoot released his song.
I’ve never dealt with containers on the great lakes but reading up on what they face when winter rolls in was more than I originally imagined. In 300 years of shipping on the great lakes there have been 10,000 shipwrecks with 30,000 crewmen lost. And that’s just our great lakes area. The Edmond Fitzgerald is still the largest vessel lost on the lakes. To this day – although it’s easy to assume that weather played a major factor in the sinking of “The Fitz” – the exact cause is unknown. The vessel dropped off radar and broke up before they could even send a distress signal. All after the other vessel on the lake that night, the Arthur M. Anderson, had made radio contact with the captain who confirmed they were alright and holding their own against the storm.
The captain of the Anderson bravely but hesitantly went back into the storm they were trying to escape from to search for, if not survivors, at least debris that would confirm the Fitzgerald had been lost. The downing of the vessel happened so quick that there was very little signs remaining on the water when he was able to make it back to the last known location of the missing ship. The storm was fierce enough to take the monster vessel down completely, and in no time. It’s probably a miracle that both vessels weren’t lost once he returned to look for his missing sea-mates. I listened to the recording here between the captain of the Anderson and the coast guard tonight for the first time. It’s heartbreaking but eerily fascinating to watch the video attached.