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Remembering when ‘the skies of November turn gloomy’
By Tom Adkinson

edmund fitzgerald bell
Edmund Fitzgerlad Bell; image by Tom Adkinson

WHITEFISH BAY, Michigan – November, normally a time of family celebration, was a time of dismay and family separation 45 years ago when the most famous shipwreck in Great Lakes history happened. November 10, 1975, was when the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a hurricane-scale storm that lashed across Lake Superior.

edmund fitzgerald final words
Final words of Edmund Fitzgerald; image by Tom Adkinson

The 729-foot-long Edmund Fitzgerald, the largest ship on the Great Lakes when launched, was only 17 miles from the relative safety of Whitefish Bay when the storm won. Twenty-nine crewmen died. The ship’s bell was recovered in 1995 and now is a memorial inside the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. A replacement bell inscribed with the names of the crew was lowered 530 feet to the wreckage.

Canadian balladeer Gordon Lightfoot captured the somberness of that last voyage in the haunting “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” It is considered one of the best storytelling songs ever composed. Its final words: “Superior, they say, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy.”

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(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published November 13, 2020

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