Edmund Fitzgerald

EDMUND FITZGERALD, US.277437, Lake Bulk Freighter built in 1958 by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, MI as Hull #301. Her keel was laid in August, 1957. Launched June 7, 1958 as a) EDMUND FITZGERALD for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Columbia Transportation Co., Cleveland, OH, mgr.). 729’loa, 711’lbp x 75’x 39′; 13,632 GRT, 8713 NRT, 26,600 dwt. Powered by a 7,500 shp Westinghouse Electric Co. double reduction geared, cross-compound steam turbine, and two coal-fired Combustion Engineering water tube boilers, with a total heating surface of 13,288 sq.ft. Engine and boilers built in 1958. Rated service speed: 14 knots (16.1 mph). Sea trials occurred on September 13th, and she was commissioned on September 22nd. The FITZGERALD’s first cargo of taconite pellets was loaded September 24, 1958 at Silver Bay, MN. for Toledo, OH. A Bird-Johnson diesel powered bow thruster was installed in 1969 resulting in a decrease in net registered tonnage to 8686. The FITZ collided with the Canadian steamer HOCHELAGA at the mouth of the Detroit River, May 1, 1970, suffering slight damage at hatches 18 and 19. During the 1971-72 winter lay up at Duluth, MN., she was converted from coal to oil-fired boilers which were automated at that time, and the fuel tanks were installed in the space that was occupied by the coal bunkers. Also a fire fighting system and a sewage holding tank were installed at that time. Minor cracking at the keelson to shell connection was repaired by installing additional stiffening on the keelson in 1970 and additional welding was required in 1973-74. The EDMUND FITZGERALD foundered on Lake Superior during a severe storm November 10, 1975 at approximately 7:10 pm about 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, MI at position 47°0’N by 85°7’W in Canadian waters. The FITZGERALD was running downbound loaded with 26,116 tons of taconite ore pellets from Superior, WI for Detroit, MI. During the height of the storm in 70 knot winds, 25 foot waves combed her deck decreasing her normal 12 feet of freeboard. Several times tons of water washed over her deck and challenged her buoyancy. Her sinking was so quick that no radio message was given though she had been in frequent visual and radio contact with the steamer ARTHUR M. ANDERSON. The FITZGERALD disappeared from sight in a furious snow squall and then from radar. Captain McSorley of the “FITZ” had indicated he was having difficulty and was taking on water. She was listing to port and had two of three ballast pumps working. She had lost her radar and damage was noted to ballast tank vent pipes and he was overheard on the radio saying, “don’t allow nobody (sic) on deck.” McSorley said it was the worst storm he had ever seen. All 29 officers and crew, including a Great Lakes Maritime Academy cadet, went down with the ship, which lies broken in two sections in 530 feet of water. Surveyed by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1976 using the U.S. Navy CURV III system, the wreckage consisted of an upright bow section, approximately 275 feet long and an inverted stern section, about 253 feet long, and a debris field comprised of the rest of the hull in between. Both sections lie within 170 feet of each other. The EDMUND FITZGERALD was removed from documentation January, 1976. The National Transportation Safety Board unanimously voted on March 23, 1978 to reject the U. S. Coast Guard’s official report supporting the theory of faulty hatches. Later the N.T.S.B. revised its verdict and reached a majority vote to agree that the sinking was caused by taking on water through one or more hatch covers damaged by the impact of heavy seas over her deck. This is contrary to the Lake Carriers Association’s contention that her foundering was caused by flooding through bottom and ballast tank damage resulting from bottoming on the Six Fathom Shoal between Caribou and Michipicoten Islands. The U.S. Coast Guard, report on August 2, 1977 cited faulty hatch covers, lack of water tight cargo hold bulkheads and damage caused from an undetermined source.

 

Digital sonar image
Digital sonar image

02b-fitzwreck(7)

Welcome to Ontario Wrecks

Welcome to my new project Ontario Wrecks.  Here I hope to get  the community to help me document Ontario’s rich maritime underwater history.  If you have a photo, site drawing or a even a historical photo of a Ontario Wreck(includes St. Lawrence River) please forward it to me at tom @ rutledgespics.com.  Thanks for stoping by and stay tuned as I populate this site.

The Comet

On 14 May 1861, COMET (wooden side-wheeler, 174 foot. 337 gross tons, built in 1848, at Portsmouth, Ontario) At position N44 08 319 W76 35 077 collided with the 2-mast wooden schooner EXCHANGE, ten miles off Nine-Mile Point on Lake Ontario. Then an explosion rocked the COMET and she was destroyed by fire 2 or 3 lives were lost, but the survivors reached Simcoe Island in a lifeboat

The Comet, a 337-ton sidewheel steamer, was built in 1848 at Portsmouth, Ontario, by shipbuilder George N. Ault. She is 174 ft (53.5m) in length and has a beam of 24 ft (7.4m). She was unique as she was powered by two “walking beam” type steam engines with a 51-inch piston. She was a passenger steamer much used by travellers, but after a few short trips she struck a shoal in the St. Lawrence river and sank. She was raised, repaired and put back into service. In 1849, a burst steam pipe seriously injured three Irish firemen, two of them fatally. Then, in 1851, after being damaged by a boiler explosion during her departure from Oswego, New York, she was rebuilt and renamed the “Mayflower”.

One gusty spring evening in May 1861, on her first voyage of the season, the steamer left Kingston for the last time. Strong winds were out of the southwest as she cleared Nine Mile Point off the westerly end of Simcoe Island. The Comet altered course toward Timber Island under Captain Francis Paterson to give wide berth to three sailing ships on the horizon. An hour later, the Comet and the schooner “Exchange” collided when the Exchange attempted to run for safe harbor from the storm. Both ships attempted to stay close to help out the other but the wind took the schooner out of hailing distance. The Comet kept its steam engines running and, in an attempt to make shore, managed to travel to within 2 miles (3.2km) of Simcoe Island before the captain had crew and passengers abandon ship in lifeboats. Two crewmen were lost trying to bail out the large yawl which the Comet towed astern. The survivors were set safely ashore on Simcoe Island, while the Comet sank about 1.5 miles (2.4km) off the Island in about 90 ft (28m) of water.

Divers Jim McCready and Dr. Robert McCaldon rediscovered the Comet, noted for her bad luck, on September 7, 1967. The two were hobby divers who had been looking for this particular wreck for the previous 10 years. Many artifacts were salvaged, including a brass door latch, a brass wine barrel spigot, silver spatulas, English ironstone pitchers, wash basins, cups, saucers, bowls and hand-blown glass goblets, some of which are in the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. There was some discussion of raising the Comet but this never came to pass.

Between the Wheels [ Tom Rutledge
Between the Wheels [ Tom Rutledge
The Comet lies in 90 ft (28m) of water, with her paddlewheels still upright, though much of the top decking has collapsed. For those trained and experienced, penetration below deck is possible at the stern for a view of the boilers and the engines. Good buoyancy is important as silt can be stirred very quickly making it difficult for the next diver to see. There are also some plates and cups left on the decking, completing the underwater museum.

The Comet is a spectacular example of ships of her time and is a special favorite of divers who visit her. Of consideration to the recreational diver is time because of her depth. There is little current on her, and visibility is usually 20 to 50 ft (6-16m), with upwards of 80 ft (25m) in the spring and fall.

P Shea Drawing
P Shea Drawing