For nearly 60 years the light flashed each night at 10-second intervals across more than 20 miles of Lake Superior's navigable waters. Today, U.S. Coast Guard regulations prohibit the light being used for maritime traffic. But it can be turned on occasionally for ceremonial purposes.
Annual Edmund Fitzgerald Commemorative Beacon Lighting
Every year on Nov. 10, the beacon is lit to commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and all the other vessels lost on the Great Lakes. This event offers the only time during the year that visitors can see the interior of the light tower when the beacon is lit. The lighthouse and the fog signal building will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The lighthouse will close temporarily at 4:30 p.m. while the names of the 29 lost crew members are read to the tolling of a ship’s bell. Following the ceremony, the beacon will be lit and the tower once again opened for visitors to tour.
Story of the Edmund Fitzgerald
In 1975, a 729-foot freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald, left Superior, Wis., headed for Detroit with 26,000 tons of taconite. On Nov. 10, the ship encountered one of the gales for which Lake Superior is notorious. Capt. Ernest McSorley headed northeast across Lake Superior, seeking what he thought would be the shelter of the Canadian shore and eventually Whitefish Bay.
The Arthur M. Anderson, sailing 10 miles behind the Fitzgerald, soon received reports that the ship was listing, and at 7:10 p.m. heard Capt. McSorely's final message: "We're holding our own." The Anderson lost the Fitzgerald's image on its radar screens at 7:25 p.m.
The Fitzgerald sank just north of Michigan's Whitefish Point in 530 feet of water.