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Quiz about The Tragedy of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald
Quiz about The Tragedy of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald

The Tragedy of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald Quiz


Immortalised in song, the loss of the "SS Edmund Fitzgerald" was an absolute tragedy when it sank in 1975. We retrace the last voyage of this ship in an effort to understand what happened. (Just don't rely on the song lyrics to give you correct answers).

A multiple-choice quiz by 1nn1. Estimated time: 3 mins.
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Author
1nn1
Time
3 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
412,750
Updated
Jul 23 23
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
6 / 10
Plays
210
Awards
Top 5% quiz!
Last 3 plays: Guest 50 (10/10), masfon (8/10), Guest 142 (6/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. When the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was built in 1958, it was the biggest Great Lakes freighter ever built, a record thought unlikely to be broken. Why? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald had some unique features. Which of the following was *NOT* a feature of the ship or its journeys? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. The freighter mainly carried taconite from ports in Lake Superior to major cities further downstream on the Great Lakes. What is taconite? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a massive ship, yet it plied all its trade within the Great Lakes. What was the final route of the ship? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. The freighter was barely a day into its journey when a series of events contributed to its ultimate fate. What was the initial event that started the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. On November 10, 1975, SS Edmund Fitzgerald sent out a May Day call at 7.10pm.


Question 7 of 10
7. The search for the missing vessel found rafts and lifeboats. How many of the crew were saved? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. Was the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald ever found?


Question 9 of 10
9. What was the accepted cause of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. A permanent memorial to the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was created at Whitefish Point, Michigan. What was the significance of this place? Hint



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Most Recent Scores
May 14 2024 : Guest 50: 10/10
Apr 11 2024 : masfon: 8/10
Apr 02 2024 : Guest 142: 6/10

Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. When the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was built in 1958, it was the biggest Great Lakes freighter ever built, a record thought unlikely to be broken. Why?

Answer: Maximum size to fit through the St Lawrence Seaway

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were heavily invested in iron and minerals industries but not shipbuilding. Nevertheless, in 1957, they commissioned the building of the "SS Edmund Fitzgerald" with a brief describing the desired length to be "within a foot of the maximum length allowed for passage through the soon-to-be completed Saint Lawrence Seaway" which was 730 feet. The ship had a deadweight of 13632 tons with a 729-foot hull making it the longest vessel on the Great Lakes and it earned the title "Queen of the Lakes" when launched in 1958. (On September 17, 1959, when the SS Murray Bay was launched, it was a foot longer at 730 feet. However, the Queen of the Seas moniker was not transferred to the marginally longer, newer ship).

The ship carried raw materials from the railhead of Duluth, Minnesota, and adjacent Superior, Wisconsin, to the industrial cities on the Lakes further east such as Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Gary, Indiana. Loading took four hours, unloading 14. The ship was fast, capable of 14 knots or 16mph. The ship created many speed records and by November 1975 it had made 748 round trips on the Great Lakes.
2. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald had some unique features. Which of the following was *NOT* a feature of the ship or its journeys?

Answer: One of the holds could be converted to a passenger facility with a roll-on 12-cabin module

Because of its size and fanfare at launch, the ship attracted many boat watchers along its route when carrying.

One captain, Peter Pulcer, is best remembered for playing music day or night through the ship's intercom system when navigating through the narrow St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. Also whilst navigating the Soo Locks, he often came off the bridge to use a megaphone with dialogue details about Edmund Fitzgerald to entertain watchers.

Unusually for a freighter, the ship often carried passengers as company guests. As a freighter the ship was luxurious: carpeting, tiled bathrooms, portholes drapes, guest lounge leather swivel chairs. There were two guest staterooms for passengers and two dining rooms. Air conditioning covered both passenger and crew quarters. The captain held a candlelight dinner once per voyage for guests.
3. The freighter mainly carried taconite from ports in Lake Superior to major cities further downstream on the Great Lakes. What is taconite?

Answer: Iron-bearing sedimentary rock

Taconite is a sedimentary rock containing 15-65% iron where the iron is interlayered with quartz or carbonate. In the late 19th-century, high-quality iron ore was abundant, making taconite to be considered an uneconomic waste product. After WWII exhausted most of the high-quality iron ore, taconite became valued. Taconite is mined in the Mesabi Iron Range region of Minnesota west of Duluth.

After mining the ore is ground into a fine powder and the iron in the form of magnetite is extracted with powerful magnets, then the concentrate is then mixed with a binder such as bentonite clay and a limestone flux.

The agglomerate is then rolled into pellets about 10-12 mm in diameter with an iron content of approximately 65%.
4. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a massive ship, yet it plied all its trade within the Great Lakes. What was the final route of the ship?

Answer: Superior, Wisconsin to Zug Island (Detroit)

Taconite pellets are taken by rail to Lake Superior ports: Silver Bay, Two Harbors and the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin, where it is shipped by lake freighters to steelmaking centres on the lower Great Lakes. Taconite is also shipped out of Escanaba on Lake Michigan after it is mined from the Marquette iron range in Michigan. Taconite from the Great Lakes is also shipped to China and Mexico.

Captain Ernest M. McSorley was in charge of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. At 2:15 p.m. on November 9, 1975, the freighter left Superior, WI, for a steel mill at Zug Island on the southern outskirts of Detroit with 26,116 long tons (29,250 short tons; 26,535 t) of taconite ore pellets. In the Gordon Lightfoot song, the lyrics stated, "They left fully loaded for Cleveland".
5. The freighter was barely a day into its journey when a series of events contributed to its ultimate fate. What was the initial event that started the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald?

Answer: A severe storm over Lake Superior

On its first day, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald joined a second freighter the Arthur M. Anderson, headed for Gary, Indiana, after leaving Two Harbors, Minnesota. A storm was predicted to pass just south of Lake Superior by 7 am the next morning according to the National Weather Service (NWS). This was not unusual: November was called "the cruellest month" because of its frequency of bad storms over Lake Superior. The Edmund Fitzgerald and Arthur M. Anderson made no concession to the weather, other than to sail in Tandem and took the direct 'downbound' route for Lake Huron.

SS Wilfred Sykes left Superior two hours after the Edmund Fitzgerald. Captain Dudley J. Paquette predicted that a major storm would directly cross Lake Superior and chose a route that offered some protection by the lake's shoreline to avoid the worst effects of the storm.

Next morning at 2:00 am, the NWS upgraded its warnings from gale to storm, forecasting winds of 35-50 knots (65-93 km/h, 40-58 mph). At 2 pm, "Arthur M. Anderson" measured winds of 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) and it began to snow at 2:45 pm minimising visibility. Arthur M. Anderson lost sight of Edmund Fitzgerald, which was about 16 miles (26 km) in front.
6. On November 10, 1975, SS Edmund Fitzgerald sent out a May Day call at 7.10pm.

Answer: False

Around 3:30 pm, Captain McSorley radioed Arthur M. Anderson to report his ship was taking on water and had lost two vent covers and a fence railing and that the ship developed a list (tilt). He slowed his ship so the other ship could catch up. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) advised all Lake Superior shipping that the Soo Locks were closed and that they should seek safe anchorage. Around 4.10 pm McSorley called Arthur M. Anderson disclosing a radar failure and asked the other ship to keep track of them. The Edmund Fitzgerald was now blind, and needed to let Arthur M. Anderson come very close to offer radar guidance as visibility was effectively nil.

By 6 pm on November 10, continual winds of over 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) were recorded by shipping across eastern Lake Superior, Arthur M. Anderson recorded sustained winds as high as 58 knots (107 km/h; 67 mph) and waves as high as 25 feet (8 m) and rogue waves as high as 35 feet (11 m).

At approximately 7:10 pm Arthur M. Anderson notified Edmund Fitzgerald of another ship heading towards them, McSorley reported, "We are holding our own." This was their last communication. The Edmund Fitzgerald was never heard from again. There was no distress signal and within ten minutes Arthur M. Anderson could not detect her on radar nor contact her by radio.
7. The search for the missing vessel found rafts and lifeboats. How many of the crew were saved?

Answer: Zero

Captain Jesse B. Cooper of the SS Arthur M. Anderson contacted the Coast Guard four times between 7.39 pm to 9.03 pm when he reported the Edmund Fitzgerald missing. The USCG asked Captain Copper to turn around and look for survivors. At about 10.30 pm, the USCG asked all vessels in the area to participate in the search. A second freighter, SS William Clay Ford joined the search, but a third freighter, SS Hilda Marjanne, could not because of the weather. Fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter were dispatched from the Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard also joined in the search. During the three-day search, debris, rafts and the two lifeboats were found but none of the crew were found. All 29 souls perished.

While the Edmund Fitzgerald was the biggest ship lost in that part of Lake Superior, it was not the only one. Between 1816 and 1975, at least 240 ships had been lost in the area.
8. Was the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald ever found?

Answer: Yes

A US Navy aircraft, equipped to detect magnetic anomalies (i.e. submarines) found the Edmund Fitzgerald four days after it sunk. It was found in Canadian waters, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Deadman's Cove, Ontario, in about 530 feet (160 m). A second survey found the ship was in two pieces on the lakebed. At least six more surveys were undertaken to try to establish the cause of the sinking.

In 1995, a dive was established to retrieve the ship's bell and replace it with a replica engraved with the names of the 29 lost men.

Between 2005 and 2009, the Ontario government made several amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act to protect wreck sites which were considered watery graves. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and 'and other specifically-designated marine archaeological sites were protected by a 500m- (1640 ft-) radius clear zone. A provincial licence is needed to enter the restricted area.
9. What was the accepted cause of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald?

Answer: It is not definitively known

Half a century after the wreck there were still conflicting theories about the cause of the tragedy. Extreme weather and sea conditions certainly played a role in the sinking of the freighter but there are only hypotheses not any proof of other causal factors.
Other factors include:

1. Hold flooding: US Coast Guard reported that ineffectual hatch closures allowed water into the cargo hold. (Not proven as a cause of sinking).

2. Hull failure: The two sections of the wreck were 170 feet apart signifying that the hull may have had a hull fracture or weakening due to a heavy winter load. (Not proven).

3. 'Topside' damage: Some historians believe that the two vents lost allowed flooding in two ballast tanks. (Not proven)

4. Shoaling: It is possible that the ship unknowingly ran aground on the Six Fathom Shoal near Caribou Island. Nearby navigation beacons weren't working at the time. Additionally, the shoal ran one mile further east than navigation charts in 1975 indicated. (Not proven)

5. Rogue waves: A Lake Superior phenomenon, the three sisters are a group of three rogue waves occurring together. Captain Cooper reported that his ship was hit by two 30-to-35-foot waves, and those waves, and possibly a third, travelled toward the "Edmund Fitzgerald". (Not proven).

Other possible contributing factors included pre-existing damage, complacency, increased load, no watertight bulkheads on the ship, lack of instrumentation and poor navigational charts.

After the sinking, there were three investigations (U.S. Coast Guard, NTSB, American Bureau of Shipping) listing 23 recommendations. Only eight of those were put into practice. They included mandatory depth finders, the inclusion of a LORAN-C positioning system (later GPS), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons, and pre-November (storm season) inspections to examine lifesaving equipment and hatch/vent closures. Additionally, the 1973 Load Line Regulation amendment allowed a reduced freeboard. (Waterline to open deck height). This was revoked. Each crew member's sleeping quarters and workstation had to be fitted with a survival suit equipped with strobe lights. Externally National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration changed how it predicted wave heights.
10. A permanent memorial to the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was created at Whitefish Point, Michigan. What was the significance of this place?

Answer: Whitefish Point was the entrance to the bay which would have been the closest safe place for the ship to shelter

When the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank it was 'only' 17 miles from Whitefish Point which was the entrance to Whitefish Bay where the ship would have been safe from the ravages of the storm. The lighthouse at Whitefish Point was signed over to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historic Society and two other authorities in 1995. A museum was created with the original ship's bell placed permanently there to remember the ship and its sailors.

There have been many tributes to the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and the tragedy but none as big as the Gordon Lightfoot Song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (1976). He was inspired to write the song as he was disappointed with the "Newsweek" article written soon after the tragedy. While some liberties were taken in the song, Mr Lightfoot changed the lyrics in live versions of the song when there was no proof "a main hatchway caved in" when revealed by investigations that concluded after the song was written.

On November 10 annually, the Mariners' Church in Detroit rings its bell 29 times. One ring for each life lost. On May 2, 2023, the church rang the bell 30 times. They added one toll for Gordon Lightfoot who died, at 84 the previous day.
Source: Author 1nn1

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor trident before going online.
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