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The Edmund Fitzgerald Leaving Duluth

I completed this painting in 1997, and it is the darkest and most psychologically brooding painting that I have ever done. It is the Edmund Fitzgerald leaving Duluth ahead of a winter storm towards the end of her years on the Great Lakes. She is being positioned by a small Great Lakes tug boat to go under the Duluth Harbor railroad lift bridge, which spans the harbor channel with its two walls that extend into Lake Superior from the base of the bridge. At the moment she is about to enter the harbor channel, the rotating beam of the inner range light illuminates the bow of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I painted the Edmund Fitzgerald this way because the only thing I have ever seen of this great ship were images created showing her foundering off of White Fish Point in Lake Superior. No one knows exactly why or how the great ore carrier sank. The 729 foot long Edmund Fitzgerald lies broken in two in 500 feet of water. The ship was likely to have been broken by being caught between the peaks of two giant waves which stressed her hull to the breaking point, or by being driven into the Lake's bottom by a rogue wave that came up from behind, driving the bow of the ship into the bottom of Lake Superior with sufficient force breaking her hull that way. I prefer the latter explanation as the cause of her sinking. Captain Bernie Cooper of the ore carrier Arthur Anderson which was following 10 to 20 miles behind had received numerous reports from Captain Ernest McSorely of the Edmund Fitzgerald that she was taking on water in her forward compartments and her bow was riding dangerously low in the water. I have been criticized for making the Edmund Fitzgerald so small in relation to the rest of the painting. Since no one does know how or exactly why she sank I chose an alternative concept, which to my knowledge has never been done. The concept I chose was to depict the peril that awaited the Edmund Fitzgerald, and to create a sense of foreboding and dread. I dwarfed this massive ship of the Great Lakes to show the powerlessness of man and his creations in confronting the monumental forces of nature that would overtake her and send her to her doom.

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Anonymous Guest 09 Jan 2018

My family on my pop's side comes from Duluth. He grew up there and, while I grew up in the Twin Cities, lived in Duluth (and worked on air at the late great 96 Lite FM in the now gone Broadcast Center. The memory of The FItz hangs over the Twin Ports every Fall. You can feel it like "the winds of November come early." Beautiful piece of work. Brings back many, many memories.

Anonymous Guest 13 Nov 2011

Wonderful. Wonderful!

Anonymous Guest 16 Aug 2010

Fabulous painting! I don't think any freighter has as much fame as the Fitzgerald and I like your depiction of it being small in relation to Lk Superior. Ann

Artist Reply: Thank you for the input. I got tired of every painting of the Edmund Fitzgerald showing her foundering off of Whitefish Point and to this day no one knows exactly why she sank I really enjoyed painting this work. One of the great challenges was executing the frost fog that is in the foreground. It was the first and only time I had painted this phenomenon that occurs on the Great Lakes. I was very pleased with the way it turned out.

Weshon Hornsby 01 Jan 2008

Very wonderful and unique painting.

Jean M. Laffitau 30 Dec 2007