The 44th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald will be memorialized Sunday, Nov. 10, at Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors.

The freighter left Superior on Nov. 9, 1975, with a load of taconite, bound for Detroit. It got caught in a massive storm on Lake Superior. Its last radio contact was with the freighter Arthur M. Anderson on the evening of Nov. 10. The Fitzgerald then disappeared from radar near the entrance to Whitefish Bay at the eastern end of the lake.

The Fitzgerald's 29 crew members were lost in the wreck. The tragedy was memorialized in Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot's well-known song.

This will be the first beacon lighting with a new site manager. Lee Radzak, who retired in April after 36 years in the role, began the tradition on the 10th anniversary of the wreck in 1985. That was the first time he lit the beacon in tribute. By the 1990s, Radzak began putting together an official program with the ship's bell and beacon lighting.

New Split Rock site manager Hayes Scriven, who is working part time until he is scheduled to begin full time Dec. 1, will attend the ceremony Sunday.

At 4:30 p.m., the lighthouse will close temporarily while the names of the Fitzgerald crew members will be read to the tolling of a ship's bell. Lighthouse staff will toll a bell 29 times in honor of each man who lost his life on the Fitzgerald, and then toll the bell a 30th time for all lost mariners.

As seen from inside the Split Rock Lighthouse, the third-order bi-valve fresnel lens of the lighthouse glows in the twilight during the annual beacon-lighting and ceremony in memory of the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sunk with no survivors Nov. 10, 1975. (Duluth News Tribune file)
As seen from inside the Split Rock Lighthouse, the third-order bi-valve fresnel lens of the lighthouse glows in the twilight during the annual beacon-lighting and ceremony in memory of the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sunk with no survivors Nov. 10, 1975. (Duluth News Tribune file)

After the reading, the lighthouse's beacon will be lit. It's the only time each year when visitors can climb to the top of the tower while the beacon is lit and revolving after dark.

The lighthouse, fog signal building, and visitor center will be open. Costumed interpreters will greet visitors and provide historic site and shipwreck information. A film about the Edmund Fitzgerald will be shown in the visitor center throughout the afternoon.

Last year's event drew over 1,700 visitors. With that in mind, Split Rock staff recommend arriving early to get a parking spot.

"Our parking gets limited as we get close to 2 p.m.," interim site manager Karly Fransen said. "I also recommend bringing a flashlight as they (attendees) may have to park in the state park. It's a dark walk back."

If you go

What: Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Beacon Lighting

When: Sunday, Nov. 10; crewmembers' names read to tolling of ship's bell, 4:30 p.m.; following ceremony, beacon will be lit and tower will open again to tour; visitor center open until 6:30 p.m.

Where: Split Rock Lighthouse, 3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors.

Admission: $10 adults; $8 over age 65; $8 college students with ID, military veterans, active military; $6 ages 5-17; free for ages 4 and under, Minnesota Historical Society members.

Edmund Fitzgerald crew members

Armagost, Michael E., 3rd Mate

Beetcher, Frederick J., Porter

Bentsen, Thomas, Oiler

Bindon, Edward F., 1st Asst. Engineer

Borgeson, Thomas D., AB Maint. Man

Champeau, Oliver J., 3rd Asst. Engineer

Church, Nolan F., Porter

Cundy, Ransom E., Watchman

Edwards, Thomas E., 2nd Asst. Engineer

Haskell, Russell G., 2nd Asst. Engineer

Holl, George J., Chief Engineer

Hudson, Bruce L., Deckhand

Kalmon, Allen G., 2nd Cook

MacLellan, Gordon F., Wiper

Mazes, Joseph W., Spec. Maint. Man

McCarthy, John H., 1st Mate

McSorley, Ernest M., Master

O'Brien, Eugene W., Wheelsman

Peckol, Karl A., Watchman

Poviach, John J., Wheelsman

Pratt, James A., 2nd Mate

Rafferty, Robert C., Steward

Riippa, Paul M., Deckhand

Simmons, John D., Wheelsman

Spengler, William J., Watchman

Thomas, Mark A., Deckhand

Walton, Ralph G., Oiler

Weiss, David E., Cadet (Deck)

Wilhelm, Blaine H., Oiler

Split Rock Lighthouse casts a beam of light in the twilight over Lake Superior during the annual beacon-lighting and ceremony in memory of the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The beam of the lighthouse can be seen 22 miles away. (Duluth News Tribune file)
Split Rock Lighthouse casts a beam of light in the twilight over Lake Superior during the annual beacon-lighting and ceremony in memory of the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The beam of the lighthouse can be seen 22 miles away. (Duluth News Tribune file)