Edmund Fitzgerald exploration

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Nick Rose

How long do you think people will stay away from the Fitzgerald after the surviving relatives die?
Wasn't there an expedition there in 1998 or '99 that went into the wreck and got in trouble for it? I was watchin Deep Sea Detectives on the History Channel (very interesting show) and they were discussing the Fitz. The surviving family members said that they dont want anymore expeditions to the wreck. So thatgoes back to my first question.


Erik Wood

You run into more tricky things then the surviving relatives. If I am not mistaken the State of Michigan has put an end to all diving on the wreck for a couple of reasons. One, it's depth, shallow by Titanic's standards but below normal dive depth and requires some sort of submersiable. Two the condition of the wreck, there is a lot of twisted metal down there and the average amatuer diver could get him/her self killed very easily. Then you have another question. Gaining access to the wreck if you are allowed to dive on it.

All of the doors (with the exception of one on the bridge) are dogged shut from the inside, and all windows (with the exception of the bridge) remain intact. The only enterance to the interior of the bow section would be down the captains stairwell off the bridge into his cabin and out into the passenger/crew accomadations from there. However, I doubt highly that would be able to get any lower on the ship then the spar deck (aka the cargo deck). Dunnage, which would lead to the rest of the deck crew quarters, windless room, forepeak and access to the holds is sealed off by way of the closed dunnage door on the spar deck.

The stern lies upside down, enterance would be possible through one of two engine room doors, but cutting away would be necessary. Enterance from either (bow section or stern section) open cargo area would stopped by the next division of the holds.

The wheelhouse to my understanding has been photographed (although I have not seen them) in detail, but that is the only portion of the interior that has been (to my knowledge) entered.

Another question is how far into the wreck do you want to go. Remeber that there are 29 (25 if you take out the bridge crew) bodies still onboard the Fitz. Nobody alive know's where they are, or what there condition is. The ice cold waters of Lake Superior especially at 500 feet down could have frozen the bodies and to some extent could still be recongizeable.

Then you have the very superstituios nature of sailors on the lakes, and disturbing the wreck to much could cause quite an uproar.

Erik Wood

I might be mistaken, it could be the Candian's that banned diving on the wreck, but some state or province did. I will look it up and get back.
If my Fitz deckplans are correct then the stairwell leading down from the pilothouse did not actually lead directly into the captain's quarters, but to a door that opened into a transverse corridor (from which one could access a number of areas including the captain's suite).

If anyone were to send an ROV down the stairway, they'd presumably run into a dead end unless that door was open. In any case, if some of the bridge watch were swept down the stairway as Hemming speculated in Gales of November, I don't believe I'd want to see the foot of those stairs.
Er.. The thought that the door could have been burst open by the force of the water rushing down those stairs had not occurred to me when I wrote the above post. I imagine the stairwell could be a means of access, at least for that deck.

Erik Wood

I am attempting to locate the source, but there is a collection of debris (and something thought to be a body) at the bottom of the stairs, most of which is probaby charts, and misc loose gear that was on the bridge.

Chris, you could be very correct about the door. I don't have access to the builders plans, but on other ships including the Reserve (a smaller but almost identical in appearance)the stairway leads directly down to the master's office, and as you say, on others it leads to a corridor to which access to the masters cabin and office as well as passenger accomadations which also provide an interior route for officers and crew in bad weather is present.

I will have to snoop around and see what I can find.

Erik Wood

After digging through the my material on the Fitz for an upcoming project I discovered that my source and associated plans. Chris is correct about the layout and that was my mistake. I leaned to much on memory which is a dangerous thing when you are me.

If the door had been pushed open or broke open by water going down, the same might have occured further down the corridor. Either way what is down there might not be something I would want to see.

My information regarding the collection of debris at the bottom of the stairs comes from information I gained from personal contact with the last exploration and the bringing up of the bell. My notes specifically state that there was a "large collection of debris at the base of the stairwell, to include what appear to be charts and other bridge equipment and possibly some clothing".

I am going to see if I can't get more information come June. Right now my plate is full with the Titanic Symposium in April and a couple of other lecture's regarding maritime things I have planned I have a lot of writting/researching to do.
Too bad. I was hoping they would send something in the wreck to take pictures. But if no one is allowed too..... There may be evidence inside about how she sank. I would have thought that by now something would have eaten the bodies.
>>I would have thought that by now something would have eaten the bodies.<<

Well...maybe. I don't have any direct sources concerning how well bodies hold up on Great Lakes wrecks, but my understanding is that the cold temperatures and the fact that this is fresh water makes for bodies in a better state of preservation. I'm really not tempted to test this by direct examination.
Isn't it true that one of the crew members' bodies was found outside the wreck and they had identified him? I read at the time of the last expedition to the wreck that they had asked the individual's family if they wanted his body recovered. They didn't.
All these years later, I would doubt that organic matter like flesh would be in evidence. All kinds of organisms feast on that stuff so quickly, even in cold fresh water. I agree that some organic material might be preserved, particularly shoes, boots, and perhaps cloth and leathers. Flesh? I don't think so. One would have to look to be certain however. Many years ago, the microsubmarine "Alvin" was lost in deep water with the operators lunch still inside. When it was later recovered, the lunch was so well preserved, the fruit was still edible and the soup could be heated and eaten.
Why the interior of the "Fitz" is not explored is no mystery to me; it hinges on the opinions of the "wives and the sons, and the daughters". Still I think it would be a fantastic scientific exercise to see if those bodies remain, not to removed them, but to get the knowledge back.
Why she sank? She sank because her hull failed under heavy seas and the hatch covers didn't do their job. No mystery at all.
I have never heard of a corpse being found alongside the wreckage, but I'm not exactly in the loop on this.
I read a couple years ago they found a body from a log worker (like one that would walk ontop of the lumber rafts) perfectly preserved except for facial features and they figured he dated back in to the late 1800s and with the fitz being fairly deep and water temps that probably dont get much above freezing.
Aren't there wrecks of ships sunk during the War of 1812 on the Great Lakes where the bodies are still remarkably well preserved?

Did a little searching and found this:

"His 1994 self-financed mission produced photos and videotape showing the remains of a body in a life vest."

"Mount Morris businessman Fred Shannon ignited a furor in 1994 by announcing the discovery of a body on the lake bottom."

"Chabot said the finding of a body was some distance from the wreck was an accident."

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