September 15, 2017
When the Fitzgerald was well out to sea, about an hour and a half after leaving the Superior entryway of the Duluth - Superior Harbor, the Weather Service broadcast gale warnings. The weather was worsening, with winds gusting from 34 to 38 knots. Capt. McSorley heard the crackle of a radio message. It was the 767-foot Arthur M. Anderson steaming out of Two Harbors, Minnesota, and the captain, Jessie B. Cooper, also a veteran laker, conferred with the Fitzgerald. Had they heard the latest weather warnings? "Roger," Capt. McSorley replied. Both agreed to follow the northern trek, "in case it really starts to blow." The two big lakers now set their course up the north shore, with the Fitzgerald in the lead and the Anderson following a few miles behind. They would both seek the limited shelter of the north side of the lake, where the waves would not have a chance to build over hundreds of miles of fresh water. Neither captain was overly concerned: Both ships had been through countless gales on Superior -- they were common this time of the year.