Welcome to Day T-minus 29!
(It may seem like we have a long way to go, but I promise we’ll get there. Solidarity, baby!!)
Anyway, while the number 29 is probably better known as one of those slightly larger prime numbers (of the twenty-five primes in all, between 1 and 100), or maybe the jersey number of a favorite former pro athlete (NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson or maybe MLB HOF pitcher John Smoltz), 29 also honors those lost at sea.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes ship that was first put to sea in June 1958, eventually breaking records for the tonnage of iron ores it shuttled across Lake Superior. And at the time of its inaugural launch, it was the largest vessel on North America’s Great Lakes.
For 17 years, the nearly 14-ton freighter became famous for its many record-size hauls between mines near Duluth, MN to large port cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Toledo, OH.
On November 10, 1975, though, facing near-hurricane conditions (including 25-foot waves) the ship’s overloaded cargo hold massively flooded.
And since the Edmund Fitzgerald never called for help, and all of the ship’s lifeboats were found badly damaged, Coast Guard’s officials in the area (some 17 miles northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan) concluded that the great freighter sank very quickly.
In the summer of the following year, Canadian folk rock musician Gordon Lightfoot paid tribute to the 29 crew members who perished that day, with his soulful, but haunting dirge “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
The song rose all the way to number 2 on the U.S. Billboard charts and featured memorable lyrics that honored the members of the ill-fated crew:
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the maritime sailors’ cathedral.
The church bell chimed ‘til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
When the Edmund Fitzgerald launched on June 7, 1958, she was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes. And to date, she remains the largest to have sunk there.
With Thanksgiving just up ahead and for the holiday season that follows, let’s try to remember those 29.
See you again tomorrow.