• The Trial of the Edmund Fitzgerald

  • Eyewitness Accounts from the US Coast Guard Hearings
  • By: Michael Schumacher
  • Narrated by: Traber Burns
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A documentary drawn from testimony at the Coast Guard’s official inquiry looks anew at one of the most storied, and mysterious, shipwrecks in American history

The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the most famous shipwreck stories in Great Lakes history. It is also one of maritime lore’s great mysteries, the details of its disappearance as obscure now as on that fateful November day in 1975. The investigation into the wreck, resulting in a controversial final report, generated more than 3,000 pages of documentation, a mere fraction of which has been made available to the public. In The Trial of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Michael Schumacher mines this rich resource to produce the first-ever documentary account, a companion to his popular narrative Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

In the words of search and rescue personnel, ship designers and inspectors, scientists and naval engineers, former crewmen of the Fitz and the Arthur M. Anderson (the nearby ore carrier that captured the damaged vessel’s last communications), The Trial of the Edmund Fitzgerald re-creates the doomed ore boat’s final minutes, the suspense of the search and rescue operations, and the drama of the subsequent Coast Guard inquiry. From the Anderson’s captain and first mate we hear reports of the Fitzgerald taking on water in the fierce storm near Michipicoten and Caribou Islands, losing its radar, and stating, finally, famously, “We are holding our own.” We follow the investigation, the speculation, and expert testimony to a problematic conclusion - countered by an alternate theory that the Anderson’s captain maintained to his dying day.

By declaring the Edmund Fitzgerald an official gravesite, Canada closed the wreck to further exploration. But here the exploration continues, providing a unique, and uniquely enlightening, perspective on this unforgettable episode in America’s maritime history. 

©2019 Michael Schumacher (P)2020 Blackstone Publishing
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Informative, but rather dry. Sometimes technical.

If you are not familiar with the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, you will certainly learn a lot about the ship and its sinking through this book. However, I found the book's approach, relying heavily on the hearing transcripts, with only short explanatory passages in between transcript excerpts, rather dry and sometimes rather technical. (How much do you want to know about how carefully a ship must be loaded so as not to over-stress the hull?) Ultimately, the book did not seem very compelling.

The story suffers from a number of difficulties. First of all, there were no survivors, so we will never know exactly what happened. There is no description of the the horror of seeing the ship break in two (if that's what happened). No firsthand account of the hatch-cover(s) washing overboard (if that's what happened). Nor do we have access to the ship's log or other documents that might have been aboard the ship. We only have a few radio transmissions before the ship disappeared, and the testimony of a few ship captains in the area at the time. Also, there were no heroic rescues, so the story lacks that kind of drama. Also, the story as told here tells us very little about the characters involved. We learn a little about the captain of the Fitz, but only a little. Other crewmen on the Fitz are not described at all. So there is little in the way of human interest here.

The author has apparently also written another book about the Fitz called "The Mighty Fitz" which may flesh out the story a little bit better. Unfortunately, that book is not currently available on Audible.

2 people found this helpful