Lake Superior is so big that it behaves like an inland sea, including nasty storms. In November 1975, a massive storm battered the lake just as the gigantic ore carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald departed for Detroit. By the next morning, the Fitzgerald and another carrier, the Arthur M. Anderson, had altered their routes to a more northerly direction as their captains tried to shield the ships and crew from the increasingly strong gales.
Captain Ernest McSorley, in charge of the Fitzgerald, knew that this was no regular storm, and he reported to the Coast Guard that his ship was in peril, taking on huge waves and listing to the side. McSorley decided to try to make it to Whitefish Bay to get the Fitzgerald out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, about an hour after the captain made his intentions known over the radio, the ship disappeared from radar. There had been no call for assistance before the communication blackout.
The Anderson made it to Whitefish Bay in one piece, but its captain, Bernie Cooper, heroically decided to head back out into the awful storm to search for the crew of the Fitzgerald. They only turned up two battered lifeboats and a single life jacket floating in the rough water.
Just a week later, a sonar ship searching for the Fitzgerald found its wreck lying more than 150 meters (500 ft) under the water, its taconite pellets scattered on the lake floor. The carrier was torn apart. However, not one body was ever recovered from the shipwreck. Even though it is fairly certain that the storm was the main factor in the ship’s fate, it remains a mystery to this day exactly what caused the ship to finally go down and perhaps more importantly where the remains of its crew members lie.
The mystery remains after 40 years, as do the superstitions. Freight ships watch the weather report with an eagle eye and will not start on any journey should a storm be forecast for the area.