Earth Day: How this U of M grad saved one billion lives and the planet with science
Today is Earth Day, and there is no better way to observe today than to honor a University of Minnesota graduate who has arguably done more to improve the living…
It has been 45 years since the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a storm on November 10, 1975 in Lake Superior. The disaster claimed the lives of the 29 crewmen aboard. When launched on June 7, 1958, the Big Fitz was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes, and she remains the largest to have sunk there.
My college geology professor, who is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, told our class how devastating, from an emotional standpoint, the loss of the Fitz was. The loss of the crew made the family members worry for the safety of the crewmen working on other ships in the Great Lakes. For 17 years, the Edmund Fitzgerald dutifully carried the taconite produced on our Iron Range and sent it to the steel mills in the Eastern United States.
According to the book Queen of the Lakes, “As a workhorse, [the Edmund Fitzgerald] set seasonal haul records six times, often breaking her own previous record.”
Another book on the wreck states:
“Loading Edmund Fitzgerald with taconite pellets took about four and a half hours, while unloading took around 14 hours. A round trip between Superior, Wisconsin, and Detroit, Michigan, usually took her five days and she averaged 47 similar trips per season. By November 1975, Edmund Fitzgerald had logged an estimated 748 round trips on the Great Lakes and covered more than a million miles, “a distance roughly equivalent to 44 trips around the world.”
Discovery Channel did a documentary on the ship in 2001, which I have posted a link to below.
The incident was immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot, in his epic, the Wreck of the Edmunds Fitzgerald.
Thankfully, the Edmund Fitzgerald was the last freighter to be lost on the Great Lakes.