Come this time of year nearly every radio station plays Gordon Lightfootâ€™s â€œGales of November” at least once. It is a fitting reminder that on November 10, 1975 the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank off Whitefish Point in Lake Superior taking all 29 hands to an icy death.
Sundayâ€™s Detroit Free Press to accompany an article titled â€œGhostly Views of a Legendâ€ ran some never before seen photographs of the sunken freighter taken in 1994 by explorer Frederick Shannon.Â These haunting photographs are a grim reminder of how fickle November on the Great Lakes can be.
Although the sinking of the Fitzgerald has become iconic in Great Lakes shipwreck lore, some 35 years earlier an even more horrific storm raged through the Great Lakes leaving in its wake 154 dead. The storm occurred on November 11 and was dubbed the Armistice Day Storm.
November 11, 1940 began much like the Indian Summer weather we are currently experiencing. It was balmy and calm and since it was a holiday weekend duck hunters took to the shallows along the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi. By late-afternoon, the spring like temperatures fell dramatically to near freezing or below freezing temperatures. Raging winds of hurricane force pushed freezing rain, sleet and snow into the Great Lakes region. At one point a 126 mile per wind was recorded. Snow falls of 26 inches were recorded. More than 1 million Thanksgiving turkeys froze to death.
Numerous freighters were caught in Lake Michigan and perished killing 66 sailors from three boats, scores of duck hunters either drowned or froze to death. Author Tom Powers of Flint has detailed the storm in his book â€œIn the Grip of the Whirlwindâ€. Â Â Â The book published byÂ Thunder Bay Press is a powerful look at a storm and both the survivors and those that perished. It is a fateful reminder that the gales of November have long been with us. Read a review of the bookÂ here.