Nov 10 2010

On This Day in History: November 10

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

November 10 is the 314th day of the year (315th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 51 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1975, the 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald (nicknamed “Mighty Fitz,” “The Fitz,” or “The Big Fitz”) was an American Great Lakes freighter launched on June 8, 1958. At the time of its launching, it was one of the first boats to be at or near maximum “St Lawrence Seaway Size” which was 730 feet (220 m) long and 75 feet (23 m) wide. From its launching in 1958 until 1971 the Fitzgerald continued to be one of the largest boats on the Great Lakes.

Final voyage and wreck

Fitzgerald left Superior, Wisconsin on the afternoon of Sunday, November 9, 1975 under the command of Captain Ernest M. McSorley. It was en route to the steel mill on Zug Island, near Detroit, Michigan, with a full cargo of taconite. A second freighter under the command of Captain Jesse B. “Bernie” Cooper, Arthur M. Anderson, destined for Gary, Indiana out of Two Harbors, Minnesota, joined up with Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, being the faster ship, took the lead while Anderson trailed not far behind. The weather forecast was not unusual for November and called for a storm to pass over eastern Lake Superior and small craft warnings.

Crossing Lake Superior at about 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph), the boats encountered a massive winter storm, reporting winds in excess of 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) with gusts up to 86.9 knots (160.9 km/h; 100.0 mph) and waves as high as 35 feet (11 m). Visibility was poor due to heavy snow.  The Weather Bureau upgraded the forecast to gale warnings. The freighters altered their courses northward, seeking shelter along the Canadian coast. Later, they would cross to Whitefish Bay to approach the locks.When the storm became intense, the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie were closed.

Late in the afternoon of Monday, November 10, sustained winds of 50 knots were observed across eastern Lake Superior. Anderson was struck by a 75-knot (139 km/h; 86 mph) hurricane-force gust. At 3:30 pm, Captain McSorley radioed the Anderson to report that she was taking on water and had top-side damage including that the Fitzgerald was suffering a list, and had lost two vent covers and some railings. Two of the Fitzgerald’s six bilge pumps were running continuously to discharge shipped water.

At about 3:50 pm, McSorley called the Anderson to report that his radar was not working and he asked the Anderson to keep them in sight while he checked his ship down so that the Anderson could close the gap between them. Fitzgerald was ahead of Anderson at the time, effectively blind; therefore, she slowed to come within 10 miles (16 km) range so she could receive radar guidance from the other ship. For a time the Anderson directed the Fitzgerald toward the relative safety of Whitefish Bay. McSorley contacted the U.S. Coast Guard station in Grand Marais, Michigan after 4:00 pm and then hailed any ships in the Whitefish Point area to inquire if the Whitefish Point light and navigational radio beacon were operational. Captain Cedric Woodard of the Avafors answered that both the light and radio direction beacon were out at that moment. Around 5:30 pm, Woodward called the Fitzgerald again to report that the Whitefish point light was back on but not the radio beacon. When McSorley replied to the Avafors, he commented, “We’re in a big sea. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

The last communication from the doomed ship came at approximately 7:10 pm, when Anderson notified Fitzgerald of an upbound ship and asked how it was doing. McSorley reported, “We are holding our own.” A few minutes later, it apparently sank; no distress signal was received. Ten minutes later Anderson could neither raise Fitzgerald by radio, nor detect it on radar. At 8:32 pm, Anderson was finally able to convince the U. S. Coast Guard that the Fitzgerald had gone missing. Up until that time, the Coast Guard was looking for a 16 foot outboard lost in the area. The United States Coast Guard finally took Captain Cooper of the Anderson seriously shortly after 8:30 pm. The Coast Guard then asked the Anderson to turn around and look for survivors.

The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies under 530 feet of water, broken in two sections. On July 4, 1995, the ship’s bell was recovered from the wreck, and a replica, engraved with the names of the crew members who perished in this tragedy, was left in its place. The original bell is on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in Michigan.

The Witch of November I am a sailor. Blessed Be

 1444 – Battle of Varna: The crusading forces of King Vladislaus III of Varna (aka Ulaszlo I of Hungary and Wladyslaw III of Poland) are crushed by the Turks under Sultan Murad II and Vladislaus is killed.

1520 – Danish King Christian II executes dozens of people in the Stockholm Bloodbath after a successful invasion of Sweden.

1619 – Rene Descartes has the dreams that inspire his Meditations on First Philosophy.

1659 – Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Maratha King killed Afzal Khan, Adilshahi in the battle popularly known as Battle of Pratapgarh.

This is also recognised as the first defence of Swarajya

1674 – Anglo-Dutch War: As provided in the Treaty of Westminster, Netherlands cedes New Netherlands to England.

1766 – The last colonial governor of New Jersey, William Franklin, signs the charter of Queen’s College (later renamed Rutgers University).

1775 – The United States Marine Corps is founded at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia by Samuel Nicholas.

1793 – A Goddess of Reason is proclaimed by the French Convention at the suggestion of Chaumette.

1821 – Cry of Independence by Rufina Alfaro at La Villa de Los Santos, Panama setting into motion a revolt which lead to Panama’s independence from Spain and to it immediately becoming part of Colombia

1847 – The passenger ship Stephen Whitney is wrecked in thick fog off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 92 of the 110 on board. The disaster results in the construction of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.

1865 – Major Henry Wirz, the superintendent of a prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia, is hanged, becoming the only American Civil War soldier executed for war crimes.

1871 – Henry Morton Stanley locates missing explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, allegedly greeting him with the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”.

1898 – Beginning of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, the only instance of a municipal government being overthrown in US history.

1910 – The date of Thomas A. Davis’ opening of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, though the official founding date is November 23, 1910.

1918 – The Western Union Cable Office in North Sydney, Nova Scotia receives a top-secret coded message from Europe (that would be sent to Ottawa, Ontario and Washington, DC) that said on November 11, 1918 all fighting would cease on land, sea and in the air.

1919 – The first national convention of the American Legion is held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ending on November 12.

1942 – World War II: Germany invades Vichy France following French Admiral Francois Darlan’s agreement to an armistice with the Allies in North Africa.

1944 – The ammunition ship USS Mount Hood explodes at Seeadler Harbour, Manus, Admiralty Islands

1945 – Heavy fighting in Surabaya between Indonesian nationalists and returning colonialists after World War II, is celebrated as Heroes’ Day (Hari Pahlawan).

1951 – Direct-dial coast-to-coast telephone service begins in the United States.

1954 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicates the USMC War Memorial (Iwo Jima memorial) in Arlington National Cemetery.

1958 – The Hope Diamond is donated to the Smithsonian Institution by New York diamond merchant Harry Winston.

1969 – National Educational Television (the predecessor to the Public Broadcasting Service) in the United States debuts the children’s television program Sesame Street.

1970 – Vietnam War: Vietnamization – For the first time in five years, an entire week ends with no reports of American combat fatalities in Southeast Asia.

1970 – The Soviet Lunar probe Lunokhod 1 is launched.

1971 – In Cambodia, Khmer Rouge forces attack the city of Phnom Penh and its airport, killing 44, wounding at least 30 and damaging nine aircraft.

1972 – Southern Airways Flight 49 from Birmingham, Alabama is hijacked and, at one point, is threatened with crashing into the nuclear installation at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After two days, the plane lands in Havana, Cuba, where the hijackers are jailed by Fidel Castro.

1975 – The 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.

1975 – United Nations Resolution 3379: United Nations General Assembly approves a resolution equating Zionism with racism (the resolution is repealed in December 1991 by Resolution 4686).

1979 – A 106-car Canadian Pacific freight train carrying explosive and poisonous chemicals from Windsor, Ontario, Canada derails in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada just west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, causing a massive explosion and the largest peacetime evacuation in Canadian history and one of the largest in North American history.

1989 – Fall of the communist regime in Bulgaria.

1995 – In Nigeria, playwright and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, along with eight others from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), are hanged by government forces.

1997 – WorldCom and MCI Communications announce a $37 billion merger (the largest merger in US history at the time).

2006 – Sri Lankan Tamil Parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj is assassinated in Colombo.

2007 – Por que no te callas? incident between King Juan Carlos of Spain and Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez.


  1. Eddie C

    Today is “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” day.

    On the morning of November 10, 1865 Henry Wirz;

    rose in his cell at the Old Capitol and wrote a last letter to his wife…Later that afternoon, after giving a few final strokes to a stray cat that had wandered in to share his confinement, he emerged from his cell with a black cambric robe draped over his shoulders…He followed the guards into an enclosed courtyard, where chanting soldiers and other spectators hung like vultures in the street. There was his life offered up to appease the public hysteria.

    In 1887, one of the Chicago Haymarket Affair martyrs cheated the state. 22 year old Louis Lingg committed suicide in his prison cell one day before his scheduled execution. The following day, in what was characterized as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in United States history, four other “anarchist” were hung by the neck and slowly chocked to death for things that they had written.

    On this day in 1898, 400 Democratic Party activists in Wilmington, North Carolina stormed through the black section of town, assassinating some African American political officeholders, then deposed the mayor and forced all remaining black officials to resign before installed a new government. “Because of incomplete records by the hospital, churches and coroner’s office, the exact number of people killed remains highly uncertain, but only blacks were murdered.”

    November 9th and 10th are two of the most infamous days in human history. In 1938 those bloody nights were called “Kristallnacht” or the “Night of Broken Glass.”

    On November 10th in 1982, the newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C. (Go to article.)

    And back in 2000, well it seemed a bit early for a “quote of the century” but someone in the Gore campaign might have made it;  

    “We have just reached the twilight zone of American politics.”

  2. TMC

    Smithsonian mineralogist George Switzer is credited with persuading Harry Winston to donate the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for a proposed national gem collection to be housed at the museum. On November 10, 1958, Winston donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, where it became Specimen #217868, sending it through U.S. Mail in a plain brown paper bag. Winston never believed in any of the tales about the curse and died of a heart attack at the age of 82 on December 28, 1978.

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