Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy still resonates with Coast Guard

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

The story of the catastrophic sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald during a Lake Superior gale Nov. 10, 1975, still resonates with mariners today. After 29 lives were lost, lessons were learned and this piece of Great Lakes history serves as a somber reminder to all those who work and play on the largest, fresh-water system on Earth — the lakes can be fatally treacherous.

The lessons taken from the demise of the 729-foot freighter and its crew have encouraged mariners to be cautious when transiting the Great Lakes and, more importantly, be ready. The U.S. Coast Guard is no exception to these lessons, and as the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald marks its 35th anniversary today, the Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay tests its own readiness for operations.

Homeported in Detroit, Bristol Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug, is currently in Cleveland conducting its Ready for Operations inspection. The three-day RFO is designed to ensure assigned personnel are properly trained, qualified, certified and outfitted to perform the Coast Guard’s missions safely and effectively. From damage control drills to towing evolutions, Bristol Bay crewmembers will be tested in their ability to handle the elements and be ready for all the Great Lakes has in store for them.
Most crewmembers aboard Bristol Bay hadn’t been born when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, but for one particular crewmember, the relationship between the legendary shipwreck and readiness training aboard a Great Lakes-based cutter is uniquely powerful.
“My great uncle was aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Lauters, a boatswain’s mate aboard Bristol Bay. “We train and prepare so that we are not caught off guard and everyone gets to go home safe at night.”
From misfortunes of times past, members of the life-saving service search for ways to prevent history from repeating itself. The Coast Guard strives to turn a tragedy into a means to educate. Learning from those who came before us and increasing our own effectiveness, we strive to provide fellow mariners with the knowledge they need to be always ready.