The legend lives on.

I guess I should save this entry for Monday, Nov. 10, but the way my brain is working lately it’s best to blog when I think of it. Why November 10? Strike up the ghostly band, Mr. Lightfoot:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they call Gitchegumee… Yes, thanks to this Detroit Metro Times piece, we’re reminded that the anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is upon us.

Like the author, I take a guilty pleasure in Gordon Lightfoot’s mournful ballad, which plucks every predictable string, but still manages to do it well. Maybe you have to love the Great Lakes, but I always get a little chill over the line, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?” You can imagine all those men, on that huge ship, in a freezing hurricane, waves big as houses, the middle of the night, knowing they’re probably not going to make it, waiting for the end.

I have friends who live up there, and say the storm that night was beyond anything they’d seen before or since, with six-foot breakers in sheltered channels you could safely cross in a canoe on any other night. You can imagine what it was like out on the big lake. Where those 29 men still lie, 28 years later. It’s very cold down there.

Posted at 11:33 pm in Uncategorized |

12 responses to “The legend lives on.”

  1. jcb said on November 5, 2003 at 11:58 pm

    For those of you with access to the Apple Music Store…enjoy 30 seconds of this classic:

    The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

    fellas, it’s been good to know ya.

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  2. John Ritter said on November 6, 2003 at 6:54 am

    I love your postcard of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Did you know that her sister ship, the Arthur M. Anderson, is still hauling ore?

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  3. Nance said on November 6, 2003 at 8:55 am

    Yes, I did know the Arthur Anderson is still afloat, but that’s not too surprising. Ore freighters of that size don’t grow obsolete overnight. And I’ll have to clarify this with J.C., but I think I remember his wife’s friend Anne, who lives in A2, was up there that night, and they could hear the ships’ radio traffic on their scanners. They actually heard the captain of the Arthur Anderson hailing the Fitz and getting no answer. (I think.) That would be creepy.

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  4. Marci said on November 6, 2003 at 9:39 am

    That song used to give me chills, too, when I was small. My dad raised me on a good diet of oddball music (Kansas, Molly Hatchet, Elton John, Gordon Lightfoot, Genesis), which probably explains my own strange tastes.

    One of my high school english teachers made us listen to Gordon’s music as an example of medieval-style ballads. If I remember correctly, those sorts don’t have a vocalized chorus, or if it is vocalized, it’s done with humming or nonsense words like “Hey nonny nonny with a hey nonny neeeeee” or something. Heh. 😉

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  5. anne said on November 6, 2003 at 11:28 am

    I�m JC�s wife Sam�s friend and I do come from Sault Ste. Marie although my main residence has been in A2 for the last 24 years, actually a block away from Nancy�s house. My brother has always been an avid lake boat watcher and in 1975 he had a radio in his room that picked up ship transmissions. The night the Fitzgerald sank, we were listening to it and we could indeed hear the Anderson calling.

    Our family owns a beach 6-7 miles upriver from the Sault where we have a summer cabin and several other relatives live year-round. I didn�t get to see how big the waves were that night but when I visited my aunt afterward, the beach was completely bare — all the logs and everything else had been blown or washed down to the end. It is a relatively isolated beach with no access at one end and I remember being a bit nervous about walking on it alone for a while after that storm. It was creepy even though we knew it was very, very unlikely that bodies or debris would wash up there!

    In honor of the Fitz, I just put a picture of our beach (on a much calmer day) on my very haphazardly maintained web site at Thanks for the memories!

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  6. danno said on November 6, 2003 at 12:52 pm

    The thing about that song is the feeling it evokes when one listens to it. You can sense the loneliness and despair in those words and that music.

    Marci, by the way, all those artist you mentioned are quite mainstream. Oddball would be more along the lines of Tiny Tim!

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  7. Marci said on November 6, 2003 at 1:10 pm

    Danno: Well, it was sorta oddball for someone my age. Technically I should’ve been listening to the likes of New Kids On The Block back then. 😉

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  8. T said on November 6, 2003 at 1:57 pm

    Spooky song. I always think of the irony of how healthy they were, strong & fit but all running to their ruin. They were “geographically sick”- stuck mid-Superior in a gale come early.

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  9. ashley said on November 6, 2003 at 2:37 pm

    I had tix to see Gordon once, but he had to check into rehab.

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  10. danno said on November 6, 2003 at 4:05 pm

    So Ash, you and Jen have coffee lately??!! 😉

    Marci, thank goodness you were saved from the likes of New Kids!!

    The fact that it occured at night was always spooky to me. Being out in any body of water at night makes it ten times more scarey!!

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  11. Brian Saunders said on November 6, 2003 at 9:43 pm

    10 comments and nobody mentioned the steel guitar?!? Shocking…

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  12. Lex said on November 7, 2003 at 3:31 pm

    Actually, down in those ice-water mansions, it’s a near-constant 41 degrees F., which helps explain why so many Great Lakes shipwrecks are so well-preserved.

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