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Accident Report Detail

SS Edmund Fitzgerald Sinking in Lake Superior

Executive Summary


About 1915 e.s.t., on November 10, 1975, the Great Lakes bulk cargo vessel SS Edmund Fitzgerald, fully loaded with a cargo of taconite pellets, sank in eastern Lake Superior in position 46° 59.9' N, 85° 06.6' W, approximately 17 miles from the entrance to Whitefish Bay, Michigan. The ship was en route from Superior, Wisconsin, to Detroit, Michigan, and had been proceedign at reduced speed in a severe storm. All the vessel's 29 officers and crewmembers are missing and presumed dead. No distress call was heard by vessels or shore stations.

Probable Cause


The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the sudden massive flooding of the cargo hold due to the collapse of one or more hatch covers. Before the hatch covers collapsed, floodign into the ballast tanks and tunnel through topside damage and flooding into the cargo hold through nonweathertight hatch covers caused a reduction of freeboard and a list. The hydrostatic and ydrodynamic forces imposed on the hatch covers by heavy boarding seas at this reduced freeboard and with the list caused the hatch covers to collapse.

Contributing to the accident was the lack of transverse watertight bulkheads in the cargo hold and the reduction of freeboard authorized by the 1969, 1971, and 1973 amendments to the Great Lakes Load Line Regulations.​

Accident Location:   ,     Lake Superior
Accident Date: 11/10/1975
Accident ID: DCA76AM001

Date Adopted: 5/4/1978
NTSB Number: MAR-78-03
NTIS Number: