The Last Voyage
The Mighty Fitz left for its last voyage on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. With Captain Ernest McSorley in command, it was destined for Detroit, Michigan. With over 40 years of experience under his belt, McSorley was a highly respected sailor. He took command of the freighter in the year 1972 and intended to retire after this fateful journey.
The freighter was carrying a cargo of taconite pellets that weighed around 26,116 long tons. With regards to the weather it was usual; storms were predicted and were expected to pass close south to Lake Superior by seven o’clock the next morning, that is, November 10th, the fateful day. SS Wilfred Sykes started from the opposite end two hours behind the Fitzgerald under the command of Captain Dudley, who anticipated that the storm would cross through the lake and not south of it. He decided to take a route that would help avoid the worst effects of the storm.
That night Captain McSorley had a discussion with the Captain of Anderson, another ship on the same route, and both decided to alter their route towards the north. Initially Fitzgerald followed Anderson for a few hours, but later on pulled ahead crossing Lake Superior at a speed of 14 knots. On its way it encountered rough winds exceeding a speed of 50 knots and very poor visibility.
In the afternoon, Fitzgerald radioed Anderson informing that it was experiencing a list and had already lost some railings and two vents. Later in the afternoon Anderson again received a radio message that the radar had stopped functioning. Fitzgerald slowed down and was dependent on Anderson for guidance. Early evening on the fateful day, Anderson radioed Fitzgerald and informed of a coming ship and asked how it was doing to which Captain McSorley replied, “We are holding our own." Ten minutes later it could not be detected on the radar or made contact with on the radio.