Remembering the 1975 shipwreck

Edmund Fitzgerald beacon lighting ceremony goes virtual

TWO HARBORS — The annual Edmund Fitzgerald memorial beacon lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse on November 10 will commemorate the sinking of the freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald and the loss of her 29 crew members on November 10, 1975.

This year the ceremony will be held via social media platforms on November 10 starting at 4:30 p.m. with the beacon lighting following the ceremony at around 4:45 p.m. The video stream of the beacon lighting will be provided by KBJR in Duluth and can be accessed live through the Minnesota Historical Society and Split Rock Lighthouse Facebook pages. It will also be available as a recording on Facebook and YouTube.

Split Rock Lighthouse’s grounds will be closed, but visitors interested in viewing the beacon in person may do so from the shoreline in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. A state park permit is required.

Split Rock Lighthouse is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., through October 31. Interior spaces including the lighthouse and keeper’s residence are closed, but visitors can access the grounds for spectacular views and limited access to the fog signal building and the visitor center. Guests can purchase a timed entry ticket for $8 online or onsite. For more information visit

Edmund Fitzgerald background

The loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald and her crew members in 1975 shook the country. No freighter had been lost on Lake Superior since 1953, and the Fitzgerald was outfitted with an experienced crew and state-of-the-art technology. When it was launched in 1958, it was the largest ship on the Great Lakes.

The Fitzgerald began her final voyage on November 9, 1975, transporting Mesabi Range taconite pellets from ore docks at Superior, Wisconsin, to Great Lakes Steel near Detroit.

Due to a developing winter storm, the captains of the Fitzgerald and a nearby ship, the Arthur M. Anderson, stayed in close radio contact as they traveled.

By the afternoon of November 10, winds had reached near hurricane strength. At 3:30 p.m. Captain Ernest McSorley reported that the ship had suffered damage to a fence rail and lost its radar. He asked the Anderson to guide them to Whitefish Bay, Michigan. At 7:10 p.m., McSorley radioed, “We are holding our own.” Five minutes later, the ship disappeared off the Anderson’s radar.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was found a few days later in two pieces beneath 530 feet of water about 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay. Though the ship went down in the storm, the details of why it sank are still largely debated today.

Explore more about this and other Great Lakes shipwrecks on the Split Rock Lighthouse website.

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