Edmund Fitzgerald lost 38 years ago when the gales of November came early

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Nov. 10, 2013 is the 38th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in a massive storm on Lake Superior.

The freighter’s crew of 29 men died when the ship, en route from Superior, Wis. to Detroit, sank near the Upper Peninsula. It was carrying a load of taconite. A little after 7 p.m. that day, the Fitzgerald was in radio contact with a nearby ship when it reported that they were “holding our own” in heavy seas. There was no further contact with the freighter; minutes later the ship disappeared from radar.

The somber anniversary is being remembered by the Duluth News Tribune, which reported that Split Rock Lighthouse will host its annual beacon lighting and memorial service for the victims of the Fitzgerald on Sunday afternoon. A bell will toll 29 times for each man who lost his life on the Fitzgerald, then a 30th time for all lost mariners. Then the lighthouse’s beacon will be lit. The event marks the only time each year when visitors can climb to the top of the lighthouse as the beacon is lit and revolving.

The story was made famous by a ballad written and performed by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot, reaching no. 2 on the Billboard pop charts in 1976. The song created widespread interest in the shipwreck; Michigan blogger Ed Vielmetti posts an annual tribute.

The News Herald in suburban Detroit reported that a memorial service is also scheduled Sunday evening at a park in River Rouge. It, too, will feature a tolling bell and at 7:15 p.m., the time the ore carrier disappeared from radar detection, family members of the crew will throw wreaths into the Detroit River. A daughter of the cook on the freighter will travel from Kansas to attend the memorial.

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