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Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald Hardcover – October 13, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st US Edition edition (October 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158234647X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582346472
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #715,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, an event given lasting fame by singer Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Schumacher recreates both the ship's final trip and the controversies that later eddied about the wreck's cause and the ultimate disposition of ship relics. Schumacher, biographer of Eric Clapton, Francis Ford Coppola and Allen Ginsberg, has also produced 25 documentaries about Great Lakes shipwrecks—an indication of his passion. Even as he dissects the rancorous disputes that arose among family members of the dead, historians and others seeking to either memorialize or exploit the shipwreck, Schumacher never fails to bring a sympathetic and knowledgeable view of the story, as well as great respect to the memory of the 29 crew members who died. Although some of the literary devices he employs are formulaic—the high school student being called from class to learn of the death of her father, for example—Schumacher, aided by his encyclopedic knowledge of Great Lakes shipwrecks and his abiding interest in telling an accurate, unsensationalized story makes them work in a rewarding narrative. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Schumacher has previously written about popular music, which, given that his subject here owes its fame to a hit Gordon Lightfoot song, seems entirely appropriate. Schumacher chronicles theEdmund Fitzgerald from its 1958 launching as the largest freighter on the Great Lakes to its 1975 sinking, memorialized by the song. He emphasizes that while the sinking was sudden, the freighter had already severely flooded, and the real mystery is the cause of the flooding. He canvases various possibilities (faulty maintenance, leaking hatchways, etc.) in detail, with clarity and sobriety. He does as much, too, in portraits of the crew, assessing the possibility of human error without gratuitous finger-pointing, and he includes moving portraits of the crew's families. Finally, he gives a balanced account of the subsequent discovery and exploration of the wreck, some of which has been so competitive and in such dubious taste that the wreck has been declared a gravesite to which further diving is barred. A thoroughly admirable addition to Great Lakes and general maritime history. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Michael Schumacher has written twelve books, including "Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (Minnesota, 2012) and "Wreck of the Carl D.," and twenty-five documentaries on Great Lakes shipwrecks and lighthouses. He lives in Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

The book was an easy read and hard to put down.
Bill Graves
This was a very well written comprehensive account of the Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald... I learned facts that I didn't know before.
Kathleen Rageur
It's a dramatically presented, thoroughly researched account, written by an experienced writer who knows how to tell his story.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Michael Schumacher is a gem. His writing style is economical, but hardly dry. His prodigous research of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes ore carrier that sank in a 1975 Lake Superior storm, shows in a detailed recitation of the ship, its building, crew, the dramatic power of lake storms, the sinking and its aftermath.

Like many people, my interest in the Fitzgerald was minimal: faint recollections of the news stories of the time and Gordon Lightfoot's ballad. Yes, when I saw the title, I thought Schumacher's book would be worth the read.

Schumacher, without ever appearing to do so, begins with dramatic flourish and keeps right on building through the very last page. He never engages in histrionic trickery. Never stoops to sensationalism of any kind. Never inserts his own opinions. He employs his skill as a writer to present the facts in a very spare way to heighten the drama. Schumacher is indeed brilliant: like the mason, he lays one unimposing brick of fact upon another until one at last sees not the individual bricks, but a stunning cathedral.

"Mighty Fitz" is an education in and of itself about Great Lakes shipping, the giant ore carriers that routinely ply their way across the waters, the frightening stormse that can roil the lakes, the men who crew these vessels and much more, including the opportunists who take advantage of tragedy to make a buck. The list is much longer, a testament to Schumacher's research and writing skills. Really, quite an extraordinary work and one well worth reading.

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By John Wicklund on November 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a teenager growing up in Northern Minnesota in November 1975 when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in eastern Lake Superior. I remember the storm, the news story, and thought the Gordon Lightfoot song only added to the mystical element of why the storm claimed the "pride of the lakes."

Schumacher's account is basically chronological, tracing the launching of the ship in 1958 and following its life until the boat last loaded taconite pellets in Superior, Wisconsin on the morning of November 9, 1975. Accounts and reflections of family members are interspersed throughout the narrative.

Of particular interest to me are the various theories of how she sank so suddenly. There were no survivors, no visual witnesses. The best evidence of what happened were radio conversations with nearby ships.

I had always favored the theory that the ship might have struck a shoal north of Caribou Island. With both radars down, the Fitzgerald had to thread a needle between two islands. Under most circumstances, this would be no problem. But in the early afternoon of November 10, 1975 in a blinding snowstorm, maybe she got too close to the more shallow shore on the north side of the island. With a hole in the bottom, that would account for the list the Captain reported. The ship gradually sank lower and lower in the water until a wave from behind lifted her and sent her nosediving to the bottom of the lake. This theory seems to best explain why there was no final distress call.

However, after reading Schumacher's book, I am less certain. The Coast Guard's original explanation of taking on water from the topside hatches now has some merit to me.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Mighty Fitz" arrived on the shelves of our local library in early December. It has already been checked out 9 or 10 times indicating to me that there is still a remarkable level of interest in trying to ascertain just what happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald on that stormy November day three decades ago. Unlike some of the other reviewers I had not read anything about the Fitz prior to this. I must admit that at times I was absolutely spellbound by author Michael Schumacher's chilling account of the demise of this formidable vessel.

For those unfamiliar with the history of Great Lakes shipwrecks "Mighty Fitz" offers a crash course on the subject. Michael Schumacher has devoted much of his adult life to studying these wrecks. You will discover the circumstances surrounding the sinkings of the Carl D. Bradley and the Daniel J Morrell in the late 1950's. And when you read the account of the great storm that claimed some 30 ships over a three day period in late November 1905 you will come to understand the powerful forces of nature that the Edmund Fitzgerald was up against back in 1975. The fact of the matter is that there are still a lot of unanswered questions as to why the Edmund Fitzgerald plunged to the bottom of Lake Superior. Was it human error? Had the crew been negligent in securing the ship? Was there too much weight on board? What about the possibility that the Fitz was structurally unsound? Or did Captain McSorley make a fatal navigational error when he took the vessel too close to the Six Fathom Shoal? "Mighty Fitz" explores each of these possibilities and many others in great detail. Michael Schumacher also discusses the continuing odyssey of attempts to get to the bottom of the Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy. There are so many competing interests at play here.
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