Friday, May 26, 2006

The Searchers All Say

I was pleased (but not surprised) at the number of people who got my Edmund Fitzgerald musical geography question right. Professor David, while late to the party, gave the most detailed answer. That didn't surprise me either, since like me, he and Lurch (my to best friends from college) have been fascinated with the story of "the Pride of the American Side". For me, it started the first time I heard Lightfoot's song. When TFR and I honeymooned in Northern Wisconsin, we stopped in Duluth, MN, and visited the Lake Superior Marine Museum, which has an excellent display on the Edmund Fitzgerald, including a model of the wreck on the bottom of Superior, as well as a model of her as she was before the wreck.

For them, it was part of where they grew up -- in Michigan on the shores of the Great Lakes.

When I decided to do a Musical Geography question on that song, I originally intended to ask the question, "To where would 'She' have made it if she's put 15 more miles behind her?" The answer, of course, is Whitefish Bay.

That line in the song is, to my mind, one of the most haunting. And it's a significant commentary on storm-related shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, especially Superior, which tend to happen at a greater rate than even the open ocean. In a recent documentary I watched on that subject in general (not just on the Edmund Fitzgerald), it was mentioned that a significant factor in this is the relatively short distances from one end of Superior to the other. On the open ocean, with enough advanced warning, a ship can outrun an advancing storm, putting enough distance between themselves and the weather to go around or make a safe port. In the Great Lakes, you run out of real estate very quickly and have to turn north or south to make safe harbor, and that's when the storms get you. In addition, the relativer dhallow depths in the Great Lakes (as compared ot the open ocean) increase the danger for ships, especially when they cause the storm swell to break.

David called me last night and recommended a newer book about her, Mighty Fitz by Michael Schumacher. Thanks, Chancellor, I'll check that out.

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