Marine Board of Investigation: Sinking of the EDMUND FITZGERALD Records

 Collection
Identifier: GLMS-0024

Collection Overview

Abstract

The collection contains transcripts, exhibits, and supplementary items from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation convened on November 18, 1975, eight days after the EDMUND FITZGERALD sank in Lake Superior with her entire crew of twenty-nine men. The purpose of the inquiry was to determine the causes of the tragedy and to examine safety procedures. Indexes are available for exhibits and testimony in addition to an index for each of the seven volumes of the transcript.

Dates

  • November 18-December 13, 1975
  • Digitized: 2014

Extent

5 Reels (5 reels of 35mm microfilm)

Creator

Scope and Contents

The five reels of microfilm in this collection present a copy of the seven volumes produced by the Marine Board of Investigation inquiry into the cause of the sinking of the EDMUND FITZGERALD on November 10, 1975. Testimony was heard between November 18 and December 13, 1975. The hearings were held at the Federal Building on East Ninth Street in Cleveland, Ohio. The entire text of the testimony was selected for microfilming, amounting to 3001 pages. Exhibits accompanying the testimony were filmed on a selected basis. Of 109 exhibit items, 98 appear on film.

Agency History

The Marine Board of Investigation of the Sinking of the S/S EDMUND FITZGERALD was convened by the United States Coast Guard on November 18, 1975 at the Federal Building in Cleveland, Ohio. This Board was assigned the task of determining the cause of the sinking of the EDMUND FITZGERALD on November 10, 1975 and to make recommendations to prevent further tragedies of this type. The Board was not empowered to assess civil or criminal liabilities. The Board held hearing on twelve days between November 18 and December 13, 1975.

The members of the Board were Rear Admiral Winfred W. Barrow (Chairman), Captain Adam S. Zobinski (member), Captain James A. Wilson (member), and Commander C. S. Loosmore (recorder). The testimony and exhibit material filled seven volumes when published.

The Board's findings regarding the cause of the sinking were not without controversial aspects. Concluding that damaged hatches had allowed water to enter the cargo hold and gradually cause a loss of buoyancy, the Board found itself at variance with a widely believed alternative theory. The Lake Carriers Association and other parties to the hearings felt the EDMUND FITZGERALD must have suffered hull damage in shallow water near Caribou Island several hours before sinking. The breached hull was thought to have been the cause of the buoyancy loss.

The controversial conclusions of the Board have been the source of debate since the hearings were concluded. Captain James A. Wilson made the published testimony available for microfilming by Bowling Green State University to increase access to the Board's findings.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is in the public domain.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection of five reels of microfilm was created in July 1978 when the original seven volumes of the report from the Marine Board of Investigation of the Sinking of the S/S EDMUND FITZGERALD were loaned to Bowling Green State University for microfilming. Captain James A. Wilson of the U. S. Coast Guard, and a member of the investigating board, arranged for the lending of the volumes. The original report was returned to the Coast Guard after microfilming.

Title
Guide to the Marine Board of Investigation: Sinking of the EDMUND FITZGERALD Records
Author
Mark Sprang
Date
July 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin