The Largest Ship To Ever Sink On The Great Lakes

Hurricane force winds sent the vessel to the bottom

Grant Piper
4 min readMay 14, 2022


SS Edmund Fitzgerald (Public domain)

Despite having a generally genteel appearance, the Great Lakes of North America are prone to wicked storms that can kick up in an instant. The Great Lakes can host storms that pack winds up to 100 mph. For slow, heavily laden freighters, unexpected winds and swells can be exceedingly dangerous. These storms have been the doom of more than one boat and plane over the years which find themselves over their head and ultimately underwater.

That is exactly what happened to the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was sailing from Superior, Wisconsin to Zug Island near Detroit when a powerful storm swelled up over the lake and overwhelmed the crew. The freighter ultimately sank to the bottom.

The Sinking

Weather map from 1975 showing the powerful low (Public domain)

In the early hours of November 10th, 1975, a storm began intensifying over Lake Superior. A gale warning was upgraded to a severe storm warning by the National Weather Service. The Edmund Fitzgerald was carrying ore to a steel mill with a second sister ship when the winds began to pick up.

The winds quickly rose from 30 mph to 50 mph which began pushing the waves to 10 feet high and more. The freighters continued on their way through the rising winds through the night but the weather was not abating. The winds continued throughout the night and into the day. The sustained winds caused the seas to rise to 35 feet or more by the afternoon.

In addition to that, it began to snow which severely reduced visibility. Winds began gusting up to near 70 mph.

The Fitzgerald attempted to limp to Whitefish Bay where the captain thought they could seek shelter from the storm. Throughout the stormy day, the seas continued to be hazardous and the two ships kept in contact with one another. The situation was bad but neither ship showed signs that they were unable to power through to their destination.

By sundown, the Fitzgerald gave her last broadcast in which she said she was holding her…



Grant Piper

Thought provoking articles, when time and payouts permit it.