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Impact of an angry sea

Andrea Stockton, staff writer
December 16, 2011 — The weather impacts every decision sailors make out on the water. Captain Ed Dewling of the Canadian Enterprise looks back at the night that the Edmund Fitzgerald sank.

Edmund Fitzgerald sank in 1975
Edmund Fitzgerald sank in 1975

The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is still remembered as one of the worst disasters to occur over the Great Lakes.

In November 1975, a powerful low pressure system, also referred to as a “November Witch”, brought stormy conditions to Lake Superior.

During the evening hours on November 10, the Edmund Fitzgerald vanished from the radar screen. The ship later sank, taking all 29 of its crew members with it.

Captain Ed Dewling of the Canadian Enterprise was sailing on Lake Erie the night the Edmund Fitzgerald went down.

“We had unbelievable sea that day, at least 25 foot sea,” said Dewling. “And when you're young and you seem like you're invincible, and all of a sudden you see something like that happen and you realize the impact of the sea and you've got to be very careful, you've got to know what you're doing and you can't take chances.”

Dewling has been sailing for 35 years and says the weather can affect every decision you make when you're out on the water.

Weather can impact a sailing significantly
Weather can impact a sailing significantly

“You don't realize how much a sea can damage a ship and you don't realize things can happen like that until you get into this industry and of course that day in 1975, all crew members were lost.”

He adds that winter storms are usually the most challenging to navigate through on the waters.

“The wind is heavier, the sea is heavier and it's colder. If we have gale warnings up, I'm going to look for a place to anchor rather than to go out to sea. So this time of the year, we really have to keep a close look on the weather.”

Weather technology has improved significantly since the Edmund Fitzgerald disaster and provides up-to-date information about certain conditions. Still, “I think even if it happened today with the resources that we have today, I don't think anybody could've helped them,” says Dewling.

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