Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thirty-five Years Ago Today...

Back when I was doing research for my novel The Old Mermaid's Tale, I read a lot about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald so every year on this day I cannot help but think of it. The song Gordon Lightfoot wrote and made famous is probably the most famous recounting of the tale but in the thirty-five years that have passed it still fascinates and tantalizes the imagination. This video is an especially beautiful tribute to those men who died on that cold November day:

When I was writing my book about the shipwrecks and sea lore of the Great Lakes I heard over and over and over stories about how a day would seem peaceful and calm and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a storm came. The word "muzzler" was commonly used for those storms -- a wall of frozen fog that approaches so fast and in seconds wraps the boat in ice. In my book one former seaman, Sal, tells Clair, the heroine of the story about his experience and how he lost his fingers, toes and part of his ear when a muzzler overtook them in Lake Erie one terrible night.

My nephew Mark Valentine confirmed this for me. He said he and his father, my brother Jack, were fishing in Lake Erie on an October afternoon when he turned around and saw something he could not imagine --- basically he saw nothing -- absolutely nothing because a wall of swirling white was fast approaching. He grabbed his father's arm and said, "Dad, get us out of here!" My brother gunned the engines and they raced the muzzler back to shore. Mark said they barely made it.

So today, for Mark, and for the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and for all the seaman who know the Great Lakes, you are brave.

Thanks for reading.


  1. I remember being so shocked by this. I was a kid, and I had the vague idea that shipwrecks were a thing of the past.

  2. I thought that, too! I've certainly learned otherwise.


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