November 10 marks the 43rd anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which resulted in the loss of 29 lives. It’s considered to be the worst disaster on the Great Lakes. Detroit’s Mariners’ Church will hold two events this weekend to honor those who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes.
On Saturday, the actual anniversary, maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse will discuss the tragedy at 11 a.m. Stonehouse has authored more than 30 books on Great Lakes maritime history including the best-seller The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
On November 11, sailors, members of the Armed Services, Sea Cadets, first responders, recreational boaters, and the Mariners’ congregation and guests will take part in the ceremonial ringing of the bell to commemorate the loss of lives on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The Mariners’ Church remains an important landmark in the history of this wreck. At 2:30 p.m. November 9, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald—then the largest ship on the Great Lakes—set sail from Superior, WI loaded with 26,116 long tons of taconite headed for a steel mill on Zug Island. The next day, gale force wind warnings were issued, with winds gusting over 50 miles per hour, and waves ranged from 18 to 25 feet. One wave smashed the Fitzgerald’s lifeboat making it unusable.
By 7:30 that evening, 17 miles off Whitefish Bay, WI, the ship had sunk, likely going down bow first. There were no survivors. The next morning in Detroit, Reverend Richard Ingalls came to the church in the dark pre-dawn hours to commemorate the loss of lives by solemnly ringing the church “brotherhood bell” 29 times, an act immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
This year’s ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. and is open to the public.
The Mariners’ Church dates back to 1842 and serves as a “House of Prayer for All People.” It’s the oldest structure along the Detroit River. The church was moved in 1955 to its current location to make way for the Civic Center redevelopment.