Loose Keel

Discussion board focusing on Great Lakes Shipping Question & Answer. From beginner to expert all posts are welcome.
Duluth Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Duluth Guest »

Guest wrote: October 30, 2023, 3:48 pm
Duluth Guest wrote: October 30, 2023, 1:09 pm Structural hull repairs to keelsons and adjacent framing are common repairs to Great Lakes vessels. The Fitzgerad is not unique here.
If I recall correctly, they were unable to fully determine the exact track the vessel took near Caribou while investigating this accident in late 1975 and early 1976, but somehow this can now be established.
You are correct, her actual course beyond 1352 on 11-10-1975 is a mystery and will remain so for perpetuity. The USCG and NTSB made the assumptive conclusion that she turned a 141T course at that time,1352, which would have taken her to the Sault free from any hazard. It also aligns with the wrecksite. What feeds the debate is that this heading contradicts testimony from the AMA crew and course decisions made by the Master of the AMA, but the AMA crew testimonies also contradict each other. About all that anyone can do, regarding the course after 1352, is pure speculation about where she MAY have or COULD have gone.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

I don’t have the perception that it was unique to the Fitz. It’s a common occurrence to have structural issues and repairs to lake ships. I just gave my experience as having sailed on it for a long enough time to realize it had issues. Serious issues. There was major structural repairs planned for that coming winter layup.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

Duluth Guest wrote: October 30, 2023, 1:09 pm Structural hull repairs to keelsons and adjacent framing are common repairs to Great Lakes vessels. The Fitzgerad is not unique here.
That has been my general assumption over the years, but it always seems that many individuals like to make it look as though it was unique to the Fitzgerald. It is interesting that there seems to be a lot more "information" that keeps coming to light the further we get away from the sinking.

I particularly like how the Fitzgerald's track on eastern Lake Superior has been established by some researchers/authors/posters to websites with a higher degree of "accuracy" than was possible by the investigators with access to the Anderson's actual logs, navigational personnel, and other documents. If I recall correctly, they were unable to fully determine the exact track the vessel took near Caribou while investigating this accident in late 1975 and early 1976, but somehow this can now be established.
Duluth Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Duluth Guest »

Structural hull repairs to keelsons and adjacent framing are common repairs to Great Lakes vessels. The Fitzgerad is not unique here.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

Guest wrote: October 17, 2023, 1:29 pm While I can’t answer your question I will comment that the Fitzgerald was the first of its kind in engineering design and construction. My good friend sailed her from initial fitout until the year previous her sinking. He maintained it was a normal action boat until the load line was increased for additional tonnage. Afterwards she became very springy. I posted my experience sailing on her. She had an unusual twist that was a bit concerning. In a heavy sea she would corkscrew far more than any other boat I sailed including 1910-1920 era 600 ftrs. When loaded the stern would drop more than I considered normal in a head or following sea when the tallest wave length passed amidships. J declined a chance to stay aboard permanent as I wasn’t comfortable with the action of the ship. I reported my opinions to CG for the inquiry but they didn’t seem to take it seriously. While I appreciate the continued interest and curiosity into the tragedy 48 yrs later. I would be happy to never see it’s sinking mentioned again. No one will ever know what happened and most of us that were around then in any capacity or connection to the Fitzgerald during its building and career until and including the sinking are either dead or very aged and mostly in declining health. I won’t divulge my identity so please don’t ask. Only say I was a crew member long enough and in a position of “ know.” On the ship. I will be at the mariners church memorial this year. Probably my last. If you MAY think you might identify me please don’t approach me . It’s a sad solemn event for me and I would like to participate without being approached as in past years. Brave mariners died that day. Please let the fitz mystery go and leave if in peace.
As the original poster of this thread, I was actually attempting to learn whether any other ships have been known to have a similar issue and only referenced the Fitzgerald because it is the only ship I have ever heard of to have this purported problem. I'm with you, it is time to put the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking to rest. Sadly, I doubt this will be the case as over the years this sinking has spawned a cottage industry in the Great Lakes region that has produced a number of self-proclaimed experts and even a handful of unscrupulous individuals apparently interested in glorifying the event.

I believe that one of the most appropriate things ever written about the Fitzgerald sinking can be found on the first page of the book "Edmund Fitzgerald 1957-1975" published by the Great Lakes Maritime Institute in 1977, just two years after the sinking. It was apparent even then as to how things were to go.

The following is the short excerpt I'm referring to:

"...to fathom the secret she carried with her to the bottom; why did she sink?
This article will attempt to bring together all that we know about the ship during her lifetime, and since her loss. It will shun any attempt at explaining what may have happened to cause her loss. We have no credentials that qualify us to do so, and we don't wish to be associated with the many others who would do well to recognize the same shortcoming, but, failing to do so, have nevertheless muddied the scene with uninformed "expert" declarations!"

I don't believe truer words have ever been written about the aftermath of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking in the past 46 years.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

While I can’t answer your question I will comment that the Fitzgerald was the first of its kind in engineering design and construction. My good friend sailed her from initial fitout until the year previous her sinking. He maintained it was a normal action boat until the load line was increased for additional tonnage. Afterwards she became very springy. I posted my experience sailing on her. She had an unusual twist that was a bit concerning. In a heavy sea she would corkscrew far more than any other boat I sailed including 1910-1920 era 600 ftrs. When loaded the stern would drop more than I considered normal in a head or following sea when the tallest wave length passed amidships. J declined a chance to stay aboard permanent as I wasn’t comfortable with the action of the ship. I reported my opinions to CG for the inquiry but they didn’t seem to take it seriously. While I appreciate the continued interest and curiosity into the tragedy 48 yrs later. I would be happy to never see it’s sinking mentioned again. No one will ever know what happened and most of us that were around then in any capacity or connection to the Fitzgerald during its building and career until and including the sinking are either dead or very aged and mostly in declining health. I won’t divulge my identity so please don’t ask. Only say I was a crew member long enough and in a position of “ know.” On the ship. I will be at the mariners church memorial this year. Probably my last. If you MAY think you might identify me please don’t approach me . It’s a sad solemn event for me and I would like to participate without being approached as in past years. Brave mariners died that day. Please let the fitz mystery go and leave if in peace.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

I found reference to the keelson issues in the USCG report. My question about this is how common was this to ships of this type? How about the Arthur B. Homer, did it have any similar issues? There seems to have been little concern about possible structural issues with the design or it would have seemed the lengthening of the Homer may not have proceeded over the winter following the Fitzgerald sinking. Although these two ships share a similar design, were their internal structures the same? Because the Fitzgerald was built as an investment property with the goal of chartering it to a shipping company rather than taking an active part in an operational role, did Northwestern Mutual go with any alternatives in its design in comparison to Bethlehem Steel's acquisition of its ship for direct operation in its fleet? Was the structural design of the hull changed in any way between the construction of both ships?
Jared
Posts: 797
Joined: December 6, 2014, 4:51 pm

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Jared »

I have both found any documentation on "modern" ships. However, about a dozen schooners were lost when their false keel came lose or they lost one of their major keel stems either bow or stern. The keel is hard to lose as most of the frames are attached to it.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

It is well documented that the Fitzgerald had structural issues. Increasing the amount of ore it carried only put additional stress on the boat. I am inclined to believe she suffered hull fracture in the shoal area on that fateful day. She managed to stay afloat for almost 4 hours until it lost buoyancy and nose dived. There seems to be little evidence of bottoming out, so I'm buying the theory of hull stress fracture by Captain Cooper.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

It was the cook, Red Burgner who said she had a loose keel and said welding rods (!) were used to fill the space between the keel and plates. Nearly every Winter, the Fitzgerald laidup at Fraser Shipyard. If there was such an issue, then the shipyard would have found it.

What the Fitzgerald did have were loose keelsons in the aft third of the ship. It was due to hull springing and the resulting vibration in the keelsons. The result was cracking of the keelsons to plate connection and stress corrosion.
Guest

Re: Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

The Fitzgeralds keel was prone to cracking. It had repairs that season previous to the sinking. I sailed it relief. It was a very springy boat but not as bad as some I sailed. It had at times a worrisome twisting motion. Made it hard to wheel her when she wiggled. I don’t think it had any bearing on the accident. She took a nose dive intact under power and hit the lake bottom. Didn’t take long either.
Guest

Loose Keel

Unread post by Guest »

In all of my years of reading about the lake freighters, new and old, I have only heard of the Edmund Fitzgerald supposedly having what is called a "loose keel." I'm not inquiring as to whether or not this was the case or what possible role it played in that vessel's sinking but rather has any other ship ever been known to have been afflicted with a loose keel? As the keel is a major part of a vessel's structure, it seems odd that a vessel with a loose keel would be able to continue in standard operation in such a condition. What exactly is a loose keel? Or is this something that has taken on a life of its own in the aftermath of the Fitzgerald sinking? If I recall correctly, this stems from allegations made by one of the Fitzgerald's former crewmembers (a relief steward if I'm not mistaken).
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