Posted by: Kath Usitalo | November 3, 2010

Mariners Lost: Lady Elgin To Edmund Fitzgerald

The massive red anchor of the Edmund Fitzgerald rests at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on the Detroit River

Next week marks the 35th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in a fierce storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Gordon Lightfoot famously put the story to song, and books have been written about the sudden disappearance of the 729-foot freighter and the loss of all 29 men aboard. 

A model of the Edmund Fitzgerald as it lies broken, 550 feet beneath the surface of Lake Superior

A Dossin Museum model of the Edmund Fitzgerald as it lies broken, 530 feet beneath the surface of Lake Superior

The Edmund Fitzgerald is one of thousands of vessels swallowed by the five massive Great Lakes; most shipwrecks were victims of the weather.

But the worst loss of life on the inland seas occurred on Lake Michigan on September 8, 1860, when the schooner Augusta rammed and sank the sidewheel steamer Lady Elgin, taking more than 300 with her.

One of Detroit's treasures, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, is celebrating its 50th anniversary

The Lady Elgin will be the subject of  the Lost Mariners Weekend, November 6 & 7 at Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River.

Saturday’s program about the 150-year old tragedy includes talks by Great Lakes historians and other experts including a relative of passengers aboard the sidewheeler, plus the maritime music of Lee Murdock. Admission to the symposium is $5 on a first-come basis.

On Sunday the Livonia Amateur Radio Club will broadcast its annual observation of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald; be sure to step outside to see the ore carrier’s anchor on display.  Admission is free on Sunday.

While at the museum take in the exhibit Life on a Long Ship: Great Lakes Sailors, where you can learn about the work and leisure time of the captain and crew of the lakers, as the freshwater freighters are often called.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum will host its Lost Mariners Remembrance on Wednesday, November 10; look for details on this and other tributes to the Edmund Fitzgerald in my next post.

NOTE: Great Lakes Balladeer Lee Murdock will perform a concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 6 at Sindbad’s, the legendary seafood joint on the Detroit River.

Photos and artifacts describe the livelihood of Great Lakes sailors

Related posts:

Edmund Fitzgerald Remembered, November 6, 2009.

Lee Murdock, Great Lakes Balladeer

Dossin Great Lakes Museum



  1. Very interesting and so sad.

    I love that people can have possibility to have remembrance of this.

    In Finland we have also lost some ships with passengers on some of our lakes.

    The name of ship is a some kind of coincidence to that I was presented my post about world’s biggest passenger ship built in Finland and its final destination is U.S.A.

    Happy Sunday.

    • I cannot imagine sailing on a ship of that size….but I know it’s well built because it was made in Finland!

  2. I lived near the Soo during that storm – only my second UP winter – and remember it well. Now I must go Google the ‘Lady Elgin.’ 🙂

    • That was one of those “I remember where I was when I heard the news” moments for many of us, wasn’t it?

  3. I can relate to the tragedy of the Edmund Fitzgerald.almost lost my life on December 20th 1960 on the laker Mantadoc with a crew of thirty,ship was damaged to such an extent it never went back into service.
    Was sold for scrap in 63

    • Oh my gosh, what a frightening experience!

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