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9:00 pm EST 50°F (10°C) in Westland, MI
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The stupidity of voters in the city of Detroit never ceases to amaze me. I can’t figure out why, but for some reason, they re-elected the Diamond Earring as the city’s mayor, even after he used police department funds to purchase a red Lincoln Navigator to chauffeur his wife around, even after he threatened to cancel Detroit’s one remaining institution of civic pride over a budget dispute with City Council, even after he has made the city of Detroit an even bigger joke than it was when he took office. Then again, as a suburbanite, I half wonder if I shouldn’t be gloating at the fact that Detroit is going to go even further into the sewers in the next four years — I mean, Detroit’s suburbs are practically at the point where I don’t think it would matter a bit to them if Osama came over and nuked the city; I don’t think that can be said of any other major city in the United States.
I’m back at home for a total of almost five days here; I got back into town yesterday evening, and I will be headed back out on Sunday. The biggest thing I have to do while here at home comes tomorrow, when I have to head out to Jackson one more time for the final resolution of the speeding ticket I picked up in July; basically, I have to show them the little card that proves that I attended the four-hour traffic school on October 19, and upon seeing that, they will enter the reduced charge of impeding traffic instead of a speeding conviction on my record. Technically, it won’t even go on my driving record, since Jackson County keeps impeding-traffic citations in-house and doesn’t even report them to the Secretary of State.
Tomorrow will be the 30th anniversary of a most infamous day in Michigan maritime history:
“With a load of iron ore, twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
That big ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.
The legend lives on, from the Chippewa on down,
Of the big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee.’
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead,
When the gales of November come early!”
— “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” Gordon Lightfoot
On November 10, 1975, the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank a mere 17 miles (28 km) off of Whitefish Point in Lake Superior. While history is rife with stories of shipwrecks that have occurred just off the northern shore of Da U.P., the Fitzgerald is the largest ship to have ever sunk in Lake Superior, and because of the mega-hit Gordon Lightfoot song I quoted above, the best-known.
A very strong low-pressure center developed over the central and northern Plains a few days before the wreck of the Fitzgerald, and by the late evening hours of November 9, it had tracked diagonally across Wisconsin and was headed across Da U.P. out into the lake. A fifty-something friend of mine who has lived his entire life in northern Wisconsin and Yooperland remembers one of the fiercest blizzards he has ever seen, even to this day, as the storm center passed over land; the storm would only intensify even further as it moved over water, eventually causing hurricane-force wind gusts of nearly 80 knots (90 mph, 145 km/h) and 25-foot (7.6 m) waves. The storm’s own wind and wave action was even further enhanced by the shape and topography of that part of southeastern Lake Superior; the lake narrows significantly as it flows toward Whitefish Bay and eventually toward the Saint Mary’s River, and the lake floor just off much of the eastern U.P. is very rocky with steep cliffs, which causes greater roughness and turbulence in deep-water currents and therefore adds to surface wave action.
Needless to say, such winds and waves were enough to take the Edmund Fitzgerald down. The most frequently given explanation for the sinking holds that two gigantic waves overtook the Fitzgerald from behind (from the northwest) and swept over the deck, filling the cargo hatches with enough water to cause the bow to plunge into the water. The moment of sinking was so violent that the ship actually split in two as it went down; the stern was found upside-down atop the bow when divers went to examine the wreckage. The Edmund Fitzgerald today remains on the floor of Lake Superior, forever protected by state law as a monument to the awe-inspiring power of the Great Lakes.