The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald launched on June 8, 1958, in River Ridge, Michigan. The ship was under the charter Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton Company, based in Cleveland, Ohio. The ship weighed 13,632 gross tons and measured 729 feet long, making it the largest ship to sail on the Great Lakes until 1971. The ship sank on Nov. 10, 1975, on Lake Superior during a storm.
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, worked with the Great Lakes Engineering Works, which was based in Ecorse, Michigan, to conceive and build the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship got its name from the President and Chairman of the Board of Northwestern Mutual.
The ship traveled a routine course from Silver Bay, Minnesota, to the Detroit, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, areas of the lower lakes. The normal haul included carrying taconite for use in steel mills.
The ship's final voyage began on Nov. 9, 1975, and took a course from Superior, Wisconsin, to Zug Island in Detroit. As the weather continued to worsen with winds up to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, the ship lost a fence rail, had damaged vents and a list. The ship continued to disappear and reappear on radar due to the waves until radar finally lost contact at 7:10 p.m. on November 10.