Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald

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Overview

The Edmund Fitzgerald, a colossal ore carrier, had been fighting her way through a pounding November storm on Lake Superior. Then the Fitz?s radar went out, and she started to take on water. Despite gale-force winds and thirty-foot seas, there was no reason to think the Fitz wouldn?t find safe harbor at Whitefish Point, Michigan. The last words from the Fitz?s captain, Ernest McSorley, was ?We are holding our own.? By all indications, the crew had no idea they were in mortal danger before they plunged to Lake ...

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Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald

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Overview

The Edmund Fitzgerald, a colossal ore carrier, had been fighting her way through a pounding November storm on Lake Superior. Then the Fitz’s radar went out, and she started to take on water. Despite gale-force winds and thirty-foot seas, there was no reason to think the Fitz wouldn’t find safe harbor at Whitefish Point, Michigan. The last words from the Fitz’s captain, Ernest McSorley, was “We are holding our own.” By all indications, the crew had no idea they were in mortal danger before they plunged to Lake Superior’s bottom with no chance to call for help.

Michael Schumacher relates in vivid detail the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, her many years on the waters of the Great Lakes, the fateful final day, the search efforts and investigation, as well as the speculation and controversy that followed in the wake of the disaster. A fitting tribute to one of the largest ships to have sailed the Great Lakes and the men who tragically lost their lives, Mighty Fitz provides a comprehensive look at the most legendary shipwreck on America’s inland waters.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, an event given lasting fame by singer Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Schumacher recreates both the ship's final trip and the controversies that later eddied about the wreck's cause and the ultimate disposition of ship relics. Schumacher, biographer of Eric Clapton, Francis Ford Coppola and Allen Ginsberg, has also produced 25 documentaries about Great Lakes shipwrecks-an indication of his passion. Even as he dissects the rancorous disputes that arose among family members of the dead, historians and others seeking to either memorialize or exploit the shipwreck, Schumacher never fails to bring a sympathetic and knowledgeable view of the story, as well as great respect to the memory of the 29 crew members who died. Although some of the literary devices he employs are formulaic-the high school student being called from class to learn of the death of her father, for example-Schumacher, aided by his encyclopedic knowledge of Great Lakes shipwrecks and his abiding interest in telling an accurate, unsensationalized story makes them work in a rewarding narrative. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Schumacher (Crossroads: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton), a specialist on the Edmund Fitzgerald, presents perhaps the most complete account possible of its demise. A 729' ore carrier, it disappeared from radar without warning 30 years ago on November 10, 1975, in the midst of an early winter storm, and nosedived to the bottom of Lake Superior. All 29 crewmembers perished. Schumacher recounts briefly the 18-year career of "one of the hardest-working ships in the business," then goes on grippingly to portray all that has been recorded of its final voyage. His fourth and fifth chapters, "Search for Answers" and "The Marine Board Report," depend heavily on the Marine Board of Investigation's report of the incident, particularly the testimonies of 45 witnesses (those who had had limited radio or telephone contact with the ship during its final hours as well as former Fitzgerald crew members). His final chapter, "Tarnished Gravesite," is an account of the surprising momentum that the ship's story has gained over the years since its loss. Noteworthy here is Schumacher's careful and precise reporting of the resulting legacy of court battles and territorial squabbles over "who owns the wreckage and who can visit it and remove articles-who, in general, can profit from the loss of property and, in some cases, life." This excellent study has the added strengths of a helpful glossary and a useful 19-page bibliography. Strongly recommended for both academic and public libraries.-Robert C. Jones, formerly with Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just 30 years ago, all hands were lost when, in a howling storm, a huge, seemingly unsinkable ship plunged to the bottom of Lake Superior. The vessel was the 729-foot Edmund Fitzgerald, once the biggest ship on the biggest body of fresh water. The blue-collar working ore-carrier simply was gone and no one knew why. Starting with the careful loading of the Fitz, Schumacher (Francis Ford Coppola, 1999, etc.) reconstructs the event honored in ceremony, story and a song by Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot. Character sketches of the captain and several crew members are provided, along with a history of the Lake and its weather. Gitchie Gummie (Lake Superior) is Great, not always benign. That day in November, the ship worked in heavy seas, green water freely boarding its spar deck. Its experienced master lost touch with a neighboring vessel. Radar on the Fitz was lost, too, in the wall of waves. The nearby lighthouse went dark in the tempest (which, afterwards, was known as "the Ed Fitz storm"). The end came quickly as gravity defeated buoyancy. The last half of Schumacher's tale describes the efforts to uncover what happened to the great ship. The wreckage was visited and there were official inquiries. Did the Coast Guard act effectively? The futility of lifeboats was clear, but did the Fitz go down because its hatches were not properly secured? Perhaps it was an improperly maintained keel. Now what is left of the Edmund Fitzgerald remains as a final burial chamber for the 29 unforgotten sailors. (A crewmen's necrology is appended, together with Lightfoot's lyrics and a glossary that offers definitions of such seafaring words as "fore," "aft" and "hull," among more difficult terms). Afastidious history of loss at sea, for casual reader and maritime maven alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816680818
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 9/7/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 607,572
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

A lifelong resident of the Great Lakes region, Michael Schumacher is the author of twelve books, including biographies of Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs, and Eric Clapton, and the award-winning book Wreck of the Carl D. He has also written twenty-five documentaries on Great Lakes shipwrecks and lighthouses.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2005

    Absolutely the BEST !

    I was so pleased with this book. Without a doubt ,Itis the best I have read so far. I imagine there will be others but So FAR , MIGHTY FITZ has my vote.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    a tragic sea story told exceptionally well

    Schumacher recounts how the super-freighter "Edmund Fitzgerald" went down with all hands during a monster storm on Lake Superior nearly 40 years ago. His narrative moves along briskly, and he tells a tragic tale with respect for the victims and their families. Lots of interesting detail on how ships are made and what they can be expected to do in the roughest seas. A really good story well-told by a master storyteller.

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  • Posted January 7, 2012

    Great Read and Difficult to Put Down

    I have read several books on the SS Edmund Fritzgerald and this is one of the good ones. It not only provides the story of the Fritz, it adds to the Witch of November story by discussing the Bradley and the Morrell sinkings. It provided all sides of the theory regarding her sinking and quite frankly, I am among the "bottomed out" supporters. Having dove on the SS Regina (victim of the 1913 strom and turned turtle), I could envision the strength of the stroy and the final moments of the ships and crews lives. Wonderful read and another great stroy of the Great Lakes. Superior in this case.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    Better books

    There are much better books on the fitz the gales of november is a good one. The mighty fitz talks more about other ships then the fitz for instance there was at least one capter when there were 7 pages on the bradley.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    One of the Great Mysteries of the Great lakes

    This is a tale that has been on TV and documented in several books and invistigations. Yet, thee is no real answer to what actually happened to send 29 men to a cold and watery grave only 15 miles from safety.

    Most know the story, but this version seems to look deeper into the men who lived the life of a Great Lakes Sailor.

    I feel I hve to travel to Whitefish Bay and see it with my own eyes after reading this very interesting and human sory of a terrible tragedy.

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    Posted February 19, 2011

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    Posted July 22, 2011

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