(Senate - October 23, 2000)

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[Pages S10887-S10888]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                          ADDITIONAL STATEMENT



 Mr. ABRAHAM. Mr. President, on the morning of November 11, 
1975, the Mariners' Church of Detroit sat empty save for its Reverend, 
Richard Ingalls, who prayed alone in the sanctuary, ringing the church 
bell 29 times as he did so. Rev. Ingalls rang the bell in tribute to 
the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, who had lost their lives the 
previous evening when the legendary ship sank during one of the 
fiercest storms Lake Superior has ever produced. November 10, 2000, 
marks the 25th Anniversary of this tragic event, and I rise today not 
only in recognition of this anniversary, but also in memory and in 
honor of those 29 brave men, as well as the thousands of other mariners 
who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes.
  Mr. President, few states have as rich or as successful a maritime 
tradition as does the State of Michigan. Michiganians initiated the 
iron ore trade 150 years ago, and men and women of the State continue 
to be leaders in Great Lakes trade. Virtually every region in the 
Nation benefits from this shipping. More than 70 percent of the 
Nation's steelmaking capacity is located in the Great Lakes basin. Coal 
from as far away as Montana and Wyoming moves across the Lakes on a 
daily basis. This year alone, ships bearing the United States flag will 
haul more than 125 million tons of cargo across the Great Lakes.
  Amidst this success, it is unfortunately all too easy to overlook the 
tragic losses that have occurred throughout the maritime history of the 
Great Lakes. Over 6,000 shipwrecks have occurred on the Great Lakes, 
and over 30,000 lives have been lost. Many of these shipwrecks have 
occurred in November, the Month of Storms on the Great Lakes. In 
November of 1913, 12 ships were lost and 254 people killed during the 
Great Storm. In November of 1958, 33 men died when the Carl D. Bradley 
sank on Lake Michigan. And in November of 1966, the Daniel J. Morrell 
sank in Lake Huron, killing 28 members of her crew.
  The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, though, remains the most 
remembered tragedy in Great Lakes maritime lore. Built in River Rouge, 
Michigan in 1957 and 1958, the Edmund Fitzgerald, at 729 feet long, was 
the largest ship on the Great Lakes until 1971. She was nicknamed ``The 
Pride of the American Side,'' and was the first ship to carry one 
million tons of ore through the Soo Locks in one year. The Edmund 
Fitzgerald also set the record for a single trip tonnage, carrying over 
27 tons of ore on one excursion. Unfortunately, the ship is best 
remembered for what happened to her on the night of November 10, 1975.
  This is in part because it remains unclear precisely what forces 
caused the Edmund Fitzgerald to sink that evening. The boat departed 
from Superior, Wisconsin, headed for Detroit, on the afternoon of 
November 9th, and was joined shortly thereafter by the Arthur M. 
Anderson. The two boats quickly ran into wicked seas, and Captain 
McSorley of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Captain Cooper of the Arthur M. 
Anderson agreed to take the northerly

[[Page S10888]]

course, where they would be protected by the highlands of the Canadian 
shore, across Lake Superior.
  By the morning of November 10th, gale warnings had been increased to 
storm warnings, and by early evening the two boats were facing 25-30 
foot waves, brought about by nearly 100 mile per hour winds. The Edmund 
Fitzgerald experienced difficulties throughout the day, and in a 
communication with Cpt. Cooper, Cpt. McSorley reported that he had ``a 
fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list.'' The two 
captains agreed to seek protection and safety in Whitefish Bay, located 
just off the coast of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At 7:10 p.m., as the 
ships neared Whitefish Point, Cpt. McSorley, in a conversation with 
Cpt. Cooper, said this of he and his crew: ``We are holding our own.'' 
Approximately five minutes later, for reasons still unknown, the Edmund 
Fitzgerald, without so much as a cry for help, sank to the floor of 
Lake Superior. She remains there today, 535 feet below the surface of 
the great lake, and only 17 miles from the relative safety of Whitefish 
  Mr. President, proper closure does not exist in a situation like that 
of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The event lingers on not only in 
the memories of the families of crew members but in the memories of all 
Michiganians. In recognition of the 25th Anniversary of the sinking, 
the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point will hold a 
ceremony during which the ship's original bell, recovered on July 4, 
1995, will be rung 29 times for each member of her crew, and a 30th 
time for the many other men and women who have lost their lives on the 
Great Lakes. And, on November 12, 2000, for the 25th time, the Rev. 
Ingalls will ring the bell of the Mariners' Church of Detroit in 
tribute to the men of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
  What this clearly illustrates, Mr. President, is that the spirit of 
these men still lives on in Michiganians, and particularly in those 
involved in the maritime industry. Perhaps, then, in a situation where 
closure is so difficult to find, recognition, at least to some degree, 
can be an adequate substitute. To know that the lives of these men have 
not been forgotten but are still cherished, lives unfortunately cut 
short but with spirits that remain, spirits that continue to live on in 
all of our lives.