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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald December 28, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Diving Books and Films.
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I happened upon a book in my local library by Dr. Joseph MacInnis (a native of Barrie, Ontario) called Fitzgerald’s Storm: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Prior to reading the book, most of what I knew about the wreck was from Gordon Lightfoot‘s song by the same name. The song is referred to frequently in the book and tracks the real story pretty well, but the book provides a lot more depth on the story and the 29 people who were lost when the ship broke in half and sank in 525 feet of water, a little North of Whitefish Bay in eastern Lake Superior (The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they’d put 15 more miles behind ‘er).

This book, written in 1995 was a great read. I devoured it in about 4 hours, hardly putting it down. The Fitzgerald was about the same size as the Roy A. Jodrey, a far more accessible wreck (still quite deep though), in the St. Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay New York and so provides some scale for the imagination. I have yet to dive the Jodrey although I tried once (that story will be posted later), but I hope to do so this year.

Our growing cadre of tech divers is also planning trips to various destinations this year, including the Oriskany off Pensacola Florida. Oliver Champeau, the third assistant engineer on the Fitzgerald actually served on the Mighty O. in the Korean War. Other destinations we’re planning are our usual trips to Brockville and Tobermory, plus eastern Lake Erie near Long Point, and I suggested Whitefish Bay after reading an article about the many shipwrecks there in Diver Magazine.

Even discounting the special permits required to dive the Fitz, which has been declared a grave site by the Ontario Government, the depth is beyond my current capabilities, and I am unlikely to ever have the training, fitness, time and money to be able to dive it. I don’t find the prospect all that interesting anyway, although I’m sure it would be a cool thing to do.

I found an interesting film clip in the CBC archives (OK it was on the first page of a Google search on Dr. MacInnis) of a 1971 CBC TV show called Telescope. It’s worth watching just to see the primitive diving gera. Dr. MacInnis has had quite a career, including advisor the discovery team on the Titanic, and co-leading the expedition to film the Titanic in Imax format.

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