Reading up on the Big Fitz Edmund Fitzgerald

Erik Wood

On straight deck bulk freighters the majority of weight is in the center that is purpose of the design. The Fitz was a sister in the famed AAA Class of ships. All of her sisters survive to this day and all except the Reserve are in service.

The sinking of the Fitzgerald is a mystery shrowded by another mystery. I am currently assisting an author writing a book on the subject. On the lakes weather has a large impact on most sinkings. But the ships reaction does to.

The Fitz was a limber ship. She shouldn't have been sailing that year let alone that late in the season. The break up of the ship is obviously what caused her sinking. But the break up is no suprise. The Coast Guard had signed off on the ship running half of a season and exteneded a second pass for this last (what turned out to be final) run. She need work and she needed it badly.

Lake boats are tough be design. The loading and unloading process although percise is tough on a ship. If the ship is limber as the past crewmembers say she was then years upon years of tough wear and a delay in a needed yard period could have been the reason for the ships demise.

The storm was larger and bigger then any Captain had seen up to that point. The Storm of 1913 was far worse but the one that took the Fitz was a biggin too.

You have to remeber that a ships life before a sinking and before the weather has a lot to do with how she will ultimatley meet her fate.

Stress is key, weather is key, construction is key and the ships life is a key.

Oh, did I forget to mention that all of the AAA sisters where pulled from service after the Fitz went down and all of them had to have some work done.
>>Then she shouldn't have gone. Why did she?<<

In a

Ship owners will try to get as much out of a given hull as possible whether it's a good idea or not. Understandable in light of the investment made and the revenue that could be earned, but that often means that they'll take some very big risks. The reasoning seems to be "We got away with it last time, we should be able to milk one more run out of the old gal." Especially if by hook or by crook, they managed to pass an inspection by whatever authorities have jurisdiction.

This sort of reasoning can have some deadly consequences.
Actually 1 of the Fitz's sisters doesnt survive to this day and that is the Arthur B Homer and the Reserve is in service. I recently photographed her unloading in Superior Wi.

Erik Wood

I thought the Reserve, Burton (not a sister to the Fitz) and....Buckeye where all out of service this season???

The Homer??? Was that a Columbia Star/Oglebay Norton boat?? The name Arthur B. Homer rings a bell do have any information on the ships demize??

The lakes, in general are not known for shotty ship keeping. There are ships on the lakes that have been around over 75 years and still in operation, the old Myron C. Taylor and Calcite II come to mind. The Southbound Challenger is also up there and I am sure there are plenty more. Most of the fleets are known for taking care of there ships.

In a recent interview, I noted in particular how Great Lakes ships are usually taken care of far better then their ocean going cousins. The nature of the trade, the nature of the routes demand it. There is far less wiggle room when operating on the lakes then there is open ocean.

Chris, if you have it on hand can you post a list of the AAA's that where built and considered to be sisters of the Fitz (in design) and if they are still operating and under what name?? Also include the companies they have worked for if you have that information.
All i know of the sisters is the Homer she was scrapped I believe in the late 80s. I know for sure the Reserve is sailing this season as for Burton and Buckeye I dunno if I'll ever see those 2 sail again...sadly. The AAA's that are around today would be the Anderson, Clarke, and Callaway all sailing this season. The Anderson, Clarke and Callway were all run by USS Fleet in their early days and are now owned by Great Lakes Fleet which I believe is run by canada cuz i know canada baught that fleet and the oredocks in duluth and two harbor minn. Hope this helps a little. If there's anything else u'd like to know i'd be glade to help
> You folks are missing a most important sister. The William Clay Ford which left the safety of White Fish bay to help the Anderson in her search. Built at Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge Michigan in 1953. This is the same company and location that built the Fitzgerald in 1958. The Ford's hull number was 300 while the Fitzgerald's was 301. Now that's close!
Thanks Charles almost forgot about her but here are the names of the 8 AAA frieghter; 1) Arthur M. Anderson 2) Phillip R. Clarke 3) Cason J. Callaway 4) Armco 5) Reserve 6) Edward B. Greene (now Kaye E. Barker) 7) J.L. Mauthe (now Pathfinder) 8) William Clay Ford (scrapped)


I'd love to see those photos u have. I have photos and drawings on these sites if you are interested. Also most drawings r for sale too.
Smile - One place for all your family's photos
Smile - One place for all your family's photos

The Fitz is not a AAA class boat. The AAA class boats are as follows with new names and owners; Arthur M. Anderson, Cason J. Callaway, Phillip R. Clarke built for US Steel, sailing for Great Lakes Fleet, Reserve (currently barged-James Kuber/Lower Lakes Towing), Armco (currently American Valor/American Steamship) built for Oglebay Norton , William Clay Ford (now scrapped) built for Ford Motor Company, J.L. Mauthe (currently barged-Pathfinder) built for Interlake Steamship, and Edward B Greene (currently Kaye E Barker/Interlake Steamship) built for Cleveland Cliffs
My dad (who worked for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad, having started there in 1967) personally knew the railroad agent at Duluth who required the signature on the invoice for the iron ore the Fitzgerald took on before she sailed, and sank, making him the last person to see the crew alive. His testimony was that the Fitzgerald was recklessly overloaded, by at least 3000 tons.