November 10, 2015, marked the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes bulk cargo freighter that suddenly and mysteriously sank during a severe winter storm on Lake Superior. A year after the sinking, Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot wrote and recorded the ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The song became an international hit that made the event the most well-known and controversial shipping disaster on the Great Lakes. The purpose of this article is to commemorate the anniversary of this tragedy by bringing it to the attention of a new generation of students, namely those enrolled in our introductory physics courses. Since most of our students were not yet born when the ship sank, we first establish a historical context for them by providing detailed information about the ship's final voyage and wreckage site. (Lyrics from Lightfoot's ballad headline each of these sections.) We then focus on “rogue waves” and the principle of superposition to produce a simple simulation of the conditions that might have resulted in the giant freighter's sudden sinking.
Skip Nav Destination
PAPERS| December 01 2015
Remembering the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald
Gregory A. DiLisi;
Phys. Teach. 53, 521–525 (2015)
Gregory A. DiLisi, Richard A. Rarick; Remembering the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald. Phys. Teach. 1 December 2015; 53 (9): 521–525. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4935760
Download citation file: