~ museum quality, handcrafted, custom-built wooden model ships ~
S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald
- circa 1970 -
Mahogany wood and real brass enhance this historical model
Although not shown in this image,
draft markings are put on hull at bow, mid ships and stern
S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was the first Great Lakes ship built to the maximum size that can be accommodated by the series of locks which move ships up and down the different elevations of the five Great Lakes in North America, thereby creating one huge inter-connected shipping area on the borders between central Canada and the United States.
Launched on June 7th, 1958, the bulk carrier was built for North Western Mutual Life Insurance Company and operated under charter to the Columbia Transportation Division - an Oglebay Norton Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The Fitzgerald’s first cargo of taconite (steel) pellets was loaded September 24, 1958 at Silver Bay, Minnesota and delivered to the steel mills at Toledo, Ohio.
Over the years Edmund Fitzgerald made a name for herself by setting a number of cargo records. She was a very striking boat and was familiar to both casual and serious ship watchers - especially as a result of the antics of her long-time master Captain Peter Pulcer who did his utmost to entertain anyone who might be watching his vessel.
The only major refit work done on the Edmund Fitzgerald in her 17 year career was the stiffening of some hull members; installation of a Bird-Johnson diesel powered bow thruster in 1969; conversion to oil fuel and the fitting of automated boiler controls; and a fire fighting system during a winter layover in 1971-72.
Sadly, the Edmund Fitzgerald is best known for the tragedy that occurred with her sinking during which all her crew of 29 men perished. It was the Fitzgerald's last trip of the shipping season before the winter ice on the Great Lakes stopped all travel when - on November 9, 1975 - she left Superior, Wisconsin and headed to Detroit carrying a cargo of 26,116 tons of taconite pellets. Traveling down Lake Superior she encountered heavy weather. During the height of the storm in 70 knot winds, 25 foot waves combed her deck decreasing her normal 12 feet of freeboard. Several times tons of water washed over her deck and challenged her buoyancy She was steaming for the safety of Whitefish Bay when - around 7:10 PM on November 10th - she suddenly foundered approximately 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay.
Had she been able to survive those last few miles, she would have reached the safety of calmer waters. Her sinking was so quick that no radio message was given though she had been in frequent visual and radio contact with the steamer Arthur M. Anderson who was on a similar track. All 29 of her crew, including Captain Ernest McSorley (who had commanded her only since 1972) were lost. Not one body has ever come ashore from the wreck. The broken hull of the steamer is located in 530 feet of water with the bow and stern sections lying close together.
The cause of the sinking is still a matter of debate. The US Coast Guard report on August 2, 1977 cited faulty hatch covers, lack of water tight cargo hold bulkheads and damage caused from an undetermined source. The National Transportation Safety Board unanimously voted on March 23, 1978 to reject the US Coast Guard's official report supporting the theory of faulty hatches. Later it revised its verdict and reached a majority vote agreeing that the sinking was caused by taking on water through one or more hatch covers damaged by the impact of heavy seas over her deck. This is contrary to the Lake Carriers Association's contention that her foundering was caused by flooding through bottom and ballast tank damage resulting from bottoming on Six Fathom Shoal located between Caribou and Michipicoten Islands.
The tragedy moved Gordon Lightfoot to write a memorial song - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - that became a top ten hit in 1976. He appeared at several 25th anniversary memorial services in support of the families and is in personal contact with many of them. The song "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is still popular today and Lightfoot sings it at almost every concert he performs.
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These custom built desk-top display models of S.S. Edmund
Fitzgerald and other bulk carriers are handcrafted from mahogany wood.
Replicated using plans of the authentic ship and built to museum quality, these fully assembled models make a life long gift or collectible.