The tragedy was immortalized by a famous song, but there's much more to the story than that -- including the captain's 10-word radio message to another ship shortly before vanishing from radar.
Almost half a century ago, one of the worst maritime disasters in U.S. history unfolded when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald cargo freighter sank in Lake Superior amid a potent storm that stirred up towering waves and tropical-storm-force winds. Decades later, the tragedy serves as a reminder of how ferocious the fall storm season can be in the Great Lakes.
Launched on June 7, 1958, the Fitzgerald became the largest carrier on the Great Lakes until 1971, according to the National Weather Service in Marquette, Michigan. The state-of-the-art vessel, nicknamed by some Mighty Fitz and Big Fitz, weighed more than 13,000 tons, was 729 feet long and had a width of 75 feet. According to a recounting by the NWS, the Fitzgerald was considered to be invincible, much like the RMS Titanic decades earlier.