A Kentuckians guide to Detroit Pt. 6: How to pick up the Edmund Fitzgerald.
This post is enjoyed 74% more if you listen to this song while reading—
In 1974, a year before it’s fateful final journey, the Edmund Fitzgerald was traveling north on the Detroit River. It was late in the shipping season on the Great Lakes. So late, in fact, that the navigational red and green buoys were removed from the rivers navigation channels. With heavy fog setting in, and visibility going to hell in a hand basket, The Fitz’s Captain chose to drop anchor for the night and wait it out. The next morning when the crew were ordered to raise anchor to commence onward to Lake Huron, the anchor chain came up, but the anchor was left behind. The main connection point on the anchor system, called the master link, which connects the chain to the anchor had somehow failed, leaving the anchor behind on the bottom of the Detroit River.
The 12,000+ lb. anchor sat on the bottom of the Detroit river until it was found and recovered in 1992. It now resides outside one of the best museums in the entire world (scientific fact) the Dossin Great Lake Museum located on Belle Isle, on Detroit’s Eastern side.
If you go to this fantastic museum, and you are lucky enough to meet the museum curator, and even more lucky enough to impress him with your interest and ability to not be an idiot, he will fetch that failed master-link and present it to you, along with a bevy of incredulous stories.
When they anchor was recovered, they also found the anchors master-link. It also resides at the Great Lakes museum under the careful protection the curator, who is someone who, if I had to guess, has a casual history of recreationally boxing with grizzly bears and arm wrestling gorillas. While those notions may be a touch off point, he is a proud 25+ year veteran of the Air Force Special Forces and avid lover and re-teller of all things historically related. Read further as- “He loves history and telling amazing stories.”
The history and lore of the Edmund Fitzgerald is something that is so interesting to me, and the direct ties to the city of Detroit only endear it to me further. I’m finding myself drawn more and more to the story of this mighty 750+ foot vessel, and have found a new pastime in reading whatever I can about it.
Considering that there are remarkably few items from the Mighty Fitz actually in possession today- the Ship’s bell the only thing recovered from the final resting place of the Edmund Fitzgerald (residing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), and then the anchor and master-link at the Great Lakes museum (naming a few)- my being able to literally pick an 80+ lb. piece of the Edmund Fitz and see it with my own eyes is no insignificant thing.
Photo credit – Alicia Blake 2017