VIDEO: This Day in Maritime History - November 10th

By MarEx 2011-11-10 09:16:55

1975 - SS Edmund Fitzgerald Sinks in Lake Superior, Kills all 29 Crew Onboard

For 17 years, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American freighter transporting taconite from mines near Minnesota to iron works in Detroit and Toledo.   On November 10, 1975, the Fitzgerald made headlines and secured a solemn place in American maritime history as the ship sank in Lake Superior after battling a torrential storm.  She took the lives of all 29 crewmembers with her.

It would seem the Fitzgerald was doomed from the get go.  Upon her launch in 1959, it took 3 attempts to break the champagne bottle, and when she finally made it into the water she immediately collided with a pier.  Despite the tribulations, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald served the Great Lakes restlessly for nearly two decades. 

On November 9th of ’75, the Fitzgerald embarked on her final voyage as she left Superior, Wisconsin, laden with a full cargo of taconite ore pellets.  The next day on the 10th as the Fitzgerald was destined for a steel mill near Detroit, the ship encountered a hellacious winter storm packing near-hurricane force winds and 35-foot waves.  At around 7:10pm, the Fitzgerald, affectionately called “Big Fitz”, sank suddenly about 15-nautical miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay in Canadian waters, falling beneath 530-feet of water.

Although the ship had reported a difficulty while sailing through the storm, no distress calls were issued before sinking.  All 29 crewmen perished in the wreck and not a single body was recovered.
The exact cause of the Fitzgerald’s capsize are not certain.  Some believe she simply fell victim to the storm surge, some assume structural failure, some think she suffered topside damage or shoaled in a shallow part of the lake.

Her true demise will never be known, but the sinking of this great American ship helped to instill life-saving regulatory changes in Great Lakes shipping, including mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, and more frequent inspections. 

The U.S. Marine Corps. Celebrates its 236th birthday

On November 10, 1775, a resolution was passed by the Second Continental Congress to raise 2 battalions of marines called the “Continental Marines” during the American Revolutionary War.  The movement was formed by Captain Samuel Nicholas, and the resolution was drafted by John Adams in Philadelphia.  The date is now observed as the birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

Since Marines serve on land and at sea, the original Marines were involved with many important operations during the Revolutionary War.  After Americans secured their independence in 1783, however, the Continental Navy and the Continental Marines were disbanded. 

It wasn’t until a decade later amid growing tensions between the States and Revolutionary France that led the U.S. Congress to formally establish the U.S. Navy in May of 1798.  Two months following, President John Adams signed a bill enacting a U.S. Marine Corps as a permanent military fixture under the Department of Navy.

Since their establishment, Marines have fought on the front lines in every war the United States has engaged in - around 300 landings on foreign shores - and in most cases, were the first troops to fight.

Present day, there are over 200,000 active duty and reserve Marines that are ready to be deployed into major operations anywhere on the planet on just two weeks’ notice. 

Their famous motto of service is Semper Fidelis, Latin for “Always Faithful.”  And Americans are forever thankful for their 236 years of faithful service.

Watch below for a tributary video on the Marines' big day.