There are many theories on the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the freighter that went down in Lake Superior in November of 1975. Some of these include that faulty hatch covers slowly flooded the craft; that the ship had structural issues; or that it ran aground on a shoal that weakened its hull.
Another theory relates to the wave action on Lake Superior the day that the Edmund Fitzgerald sank. It deals with what have been called “rogue waves,” or even “killer waves” by some. These waves are said to be twice as tall as surrounding wave heights and highly unpredictable.
The theory has been relatively disregarded in the past because confirming the existence of the rogue waves had been difficult. But researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying near the Apostle Islands, have found that the out-of-nowhere waves are possible on the lake.
The researchers have been using a sensor mounted on the bottom of Lake Superior, likely an acoustic doppler current profiler or similar device, to gauge waves in the area. Their efforts have revealed that rogue waves do form, though the ones scientists have found — as high as 17.7 feet when others at the time averaged 8.9 feet — aren’t nearly as tall as those thought to have occurred when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank (56 feet).
During certain wave conditions, the scientists have found that the waves can group together. For example, there could be three or four of the rogue waves in one hour and then they’d just go away for the rest of the day.
That adds a little credence, though no certain proof, to the “rogue waves” theory. Originally put forth in 2000, the theory has long held that it wasn’t just one wave that downed the ship, but three.
How do you think the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank? Will we ever truly know what brought down the famous freighter? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.