47 years later, the Edmund Fitzgerald lives on through strides made in maritime safety

DULUTH, MN(Northern News Now)
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 6:49 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN -- 47 years ago, the Edmund Fitzgerald met its demise on a stormy day on Lake Superior.

The wreck sent shockwaves through the shipping industry, and to this day remains the last and largest freighter to wreck on the lake.

“At 7:10 p.m. the Fitzgerald gave their last radio communication to the [Arthur] Anderson. Then by 7:20, the Anderson lost all visual and radio contact with the Fitzgerald and at that point they contacted the Coast Guard to get the search and rescue operation started,” said Sara Summers-Luedtke with the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor’s Center.

All the ship’s 29 crew members perished in the wreck, so we don’t know for certain how the ship went down.

The tragedy prompted the Coast Guard to re-examine their policies.

“The Coast Guard mandated more rigorous inspections and safety drills with their life saving equipment. They also mandated the use of depth finders, which the Fitzgerald didn’t have on board,” said Summers-Luedtke.

There have also been advances in technology that have made maritime travel less treacherous.

“Ship-to-short and shore-to-ship communication has increased greatly. The radio signals are stronger, there’s many boats that have Wi Fi now on board and navigation has increased as well. There’s updated charts,” she said.

She says the wreck serves as a reminder to make sure another wreck like the Edmund Fitzgerald never happens again.

“The advances that were made and the lessons learned, I think, were very important and they are helping to prevent tragedies like that happening today,” she said.