Program commemorates 44th anniversary of S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sinking

"The Fitzgerald Experience" will include guided tours of the museum's preserved freighter, the S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker, and viewings of its documentary film, A Good Ship and Crew Well Seasoned: The Fitzgerald and Her Legacy.

"Although the Schoonmaker was built four decades before the Fitzgerald, the Schoonmaker was converted to a steam turbine in the mid-1950s and therefore has many of the same features as the famous shipwreck," said Christopher Gillcrist, the museum's executive director.

"We believe that to fully understand the loss of the Fitz, you need to see things like the hatch clamps, vent covers, and the fence rails to appreciate how the Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Lake Carriers' Association came to three different conclusions as to her loss," Gillcrist said.

The Fitzgerald sank during a vicious storm on Nov. 10, 1975 while transiting eastern Lake Superior on its way from Superior, Wis. to Detroit with a load of taconite pellets. Its entire 29-man crew perished including its captain, Ernest McSorley of Ottawa Hills, and several others from the Toledo area.

A Coast Guard report nearly two years later blamed the sinking on improperly secured hatch covers allowing the cargo hold to flood, causing the Fitzgerald to lose buoyancy. The NTSB also cited cargo-hold flooding but concluded that one or more hatch covers had been damaged by heavy seas pounding the ship's deck.

The Lake Carriers' Association, meanwhile, argued that the ship must....

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