Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gales of November

The S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank just over 30 years ago, November 10, 1975. The S. S. Anderson had been following about 10 miles behind the Fitzgerald and was the last ship to have had contact with them. When they pulled into Whitefish Bay the Coast Guard had them go back into the storm as part of the search effort - the nearest Coast Guard vessel was more than 24 hours away. One of the Anderson crewmen spoke his last will and testament into a tape recorder and sealed the tape in a glass jar with candle wax:
The leather jacket to Danny. Books and tapes to Sara. Toss the White Album on the water. The dog to...dad...sorry, dad. This letter to be played for my son in 20 years and not a day before today.

My dear Joshua, I'm in the midst of a great storm on Lake Superior. The Edmund Fitzgerald has been lost and my ship, the Arthur Anderson, has been sent to find her. The seas build behind us and there's green water on deck. This is my last voyage, I'm certain. As I write you this, you lie in your crib in Duluth. Months ago you left the water and entered the world. We are now passing each other. I have nothing more to give you that I haven't already: my guts, my brains, my bald spot. You will have no more of my face, my time, or my laughter. You will only have my heritage. I will father you from within.

This sailor did survive, but it's one of the many heartbreaking voices heard in Gales of November, a retelling of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald with the words of the widows, other sailors on the lake that night, and the final radio transmissions from the captain of the Fitzgerald. Weaving the personal stories with historical facts, Gales of November provides a chilling tale and a worthy memorial.

This is a concert version of the Steven Dietz play, Ten November, with Kevin Kling as narrator. Prudence Johnson, Claudia Schmidt and Ruth MacKenzie provide the voices for other roles, including those of the widows, in addition to providing the musical interludes.

Of those I'm familiar with, Kevin Kling is also a playwright and can often be heard on NPR's All Things Considered. Prudence Johnson is one of my favorite vocalists, and for you non Minnesotans can occassionally be heard on A Prairie Home Companion. Peter Ostroushko also has many appearances on A Prairie Home Companion.

Minnesota Public Radio broadcast the production on November 26 and has it available in RealAudio in two parts (1.5 hours): Part 1, Part 2.

Official website: Gales of November.

A CD of the music can also be purchased: Gales of November CD thru CD Baby.

See also, Lake Superior Marine Museum Association


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