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Mighty Fitz:
The Sinking of the
Edmund Fitzgerald

by Michael Schumaker

Just in time for the 30the anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald comes another book on the subject, this one by an author better known for his biographies of musicians and moviemakers than for his books about Great Lakes shipwrecks. In fact, this is his first, although he has written scripts for shipwreck documentaries. However that didn’t stop Michael Shumacher from producing one the most definitive books on the subject to date.

“MightyFitz” – inexplicably without a single photo or map – provides already familiar details about the Fitz’s last hours, the terrible storm, the damage the vessel’s captain reported to the master of the Arthur M. Anderson, and the horrible moment when the Anderson’s captain realized the Fitzgerald was gone. It covers the search and rescue effort, and reports on the surveys and dives to the wreck and the investigations that followed. It examines the various theories as to why the vessel broke up, covers the controversial raising of the ship’s bell and recounts the dispute that developed between rival shipwreck historians/divers Tom Farnquist and Fred Shannon. His interviews with the family members of those who were lost are especially compelling.

Ultimately, Schumacher offers little new information. But his book makes for a complete and gripping read, even for those who are already familiar with the Fitzgerald’s story.

“Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Michael Schumacher, 2005; Bloomsbury Publishing ($24.95, 243 pages, hardcover)

Seaway Ships 2005
(23rd annual edition)
edited by
Rene Beauchamp

Marine photographer Rene Beauchamp releases his 23rd annual edition of his book "Seaway Ships".  The 46-page spiral bound book includes a statistical summary of all of the salties having visited the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway this past season, 19 color photos, Seaway statistics going back to 1959 and much more.  This is a limited edition book with only 175 copies being printed.

For further information or to order, contact Rene Beauchamp at .
Rene Beauchamp, 9041 Bellerive, Montreal, QC, Canada, H1L 3S5 ($19.25 US, $19.95 CN, or $27.00 CN for overseas, all prices including postage, 46 pages, spiral bound, illustrated)

Commercial Ships on the Great Lakes: A Photo Gallery
by Franz A. VonRiedel

Franz VonRiedel of the Duluth area, who is well known as a passionate tugboat / workboat aficionado, has put together a book that celebrates through black and white photos many vessels that might be considered Great Lakes workhorses, those that labor behind the scenes and seldom make the headlines. Besides the big lakers that usually get all the attention, this volume includes sections that pay homage to fish tugs, bumboats, grocery launches, barges, vessels being scrapped – and yes, tugs aplenty.

“Commercial Ships on the Great Lakes: A Photo Gallery” Franz A. VonRiedel, 2005, Iconografix Inc., 1830A Hanley Road, P.O. Box 446, Hudson, WI 54016 ($29.95, 158 pages, softbound, illustrated,

The Francis Smith: Palace Steamer of the Upper Great Lakes, 1867–1896
by Scott L. Cameron

The sidewheeler  Francis Smith was one of the most luxurious steamboats to sail on the upper Great Lakes during her time. This is her story, set against a backdrop of history and retrieving from obscurity some of the major personalities and incidents in the history of Canada’s Georgian Bay. Cameron has done his research well, and it shows in the details offered here. The book is a fascinating glimpse of a way of life long vanished from the lakes.

“The Francis Smith: Palace Steamer of the Upper Great Lakes, 1867–1896” Scott L. Cameron, 2005, Natural Heritage Books, ($22.95-U.S., 288 pages, softbound, illustrated)

Legends of Light: A Michigan Lighthouse Portfolio
by Ed Wargin

Veteran photographer Ed Wargin has produced a spectacular collection of scenes of 51 Michigan lighthouses taken from unique angles and emphasizing intriguing groupings of colors. The volume ranges from aerial shots to the warm pink colors of dawn to the purples of dusk. This book would have to be considered as a work-of-art among the many lighthouse tomes published in recent years. The images display an understanding of composition and scope that can be instructive to the amateur photographer. This is a truly special set of images.

“Legends of Light: A Michigan Lighthouse Portfolio” Ed Wargin, 2005, Ann Arbor Media Group LLC, 2500 South State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 ($39.95, hardcover, illustrated)

Upbound Downbound: The Story of the Soo Locks
by Bernie Arbic & Nancy Steinhaus

City of the Rapids: Sault Ste. Marie's Heritage
by Bernie Arbic

Bottom of the Lock
T&T Productions

Two books and a DVD help commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Soo Locks in 2005.

“Upbound Downbound: The Story of the Soo Locks” was written by Sault Ste. Marie historian and retired Lake Superior State University professor Bernie Arbic and Nancy Steinhaus, president of the Chippewa County Historical Society. The book, illustrated with many fascinating black and white photos, covers the building of the locks, operating and maintaining them, and the process of dredging the St. Marys River channels.  While it contains plenty of necessary detail, the volume is still accessible to the casual reader.

“City of the Rapids” Sault Ste. Marie’s Heritage” is by Arbic alone. Starting with “After the Last Glacier” and ending 13 chapters later with “Odds and Ends,” this extremely well researched and readable work leaves no avenue unexplored when it comes to its subject matter. There’s even a list of former Sault Ste. Marie mayors. Besides the history of the town, text and photos cover such events as the building of the Soo Locks and the power canal that bisects the city. There’s also enough here about the locks and lakers to keep history buffs and boat fans happy.

The two Sault Ste. Marie books can be obtained from the Chippewa County Historical Society, P.O. Box 342, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783 (Michigan residents add 6 percent tax and $3 s-h). For information on buying a copy of “Bottom of the Lock,” visit  – Roger LeLievre

“Upbound Downbound: The Story of the Soo Locks” Bernie Arbic & Nancy Steinhaus; 2005; (80 pages, illustrated, softbound, $10.95)

“City of the Rapids” Sault Ste. Marie’s Heritage” Bernie Arbic; 2003 (348 pages, illustrated, softbound, $15.95)

“Bottom of the Lock” (DVD & CD-ROM) T&T Productions; 2005 (running time: under 1/2 hour; DVD $11, CD-ROM $10)

Songquest: The Journals of Great Lakes Folklorist Ivan H. Walton
edited by Joe Grimm

Ivan H. Walton was a folklorist who drove from town to town around the Great Lakes in the 1930s collecting the songs and stories of aging sailors. His collection – which began as a search for songs but broadened into a collection of weather signs, shipboard beliefs, greenhorn tales, and stories of the intense rivalry between sailors and the steamboat men who replaced them – is unique in the annals of Great Lakes folklore. Edited by Joe Grimm, Songquest is a fascinating selection from the daily journals Walton wrote during his travels. His writings provide a clear picture of the colorful individuals he met and interviewed. Walton also documented the methods – including bulky early recording devices – he used and also included his personal thoughts about his nomadic life and the events going on around him during the 1930s, including the Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelts election and the end of Prohibition. These journal entries bring to life an era on the Great Lakes long gone into the history books.

“Songquest: The Journals of Great Lakes Folklorist Ivan H. Walton” Edited by Joe Grimm; 2005, Wayne State University Press (256 pages, black & white illustrations, softbound, $27.95) Available from

The Cedarville Conspiracy:
Indicting U.S. Steel
by L. Stephen Cox


This book addresses the May 7, 1965 sinking of the steamer Cedarville after a collision with the Norwegian freighter Topdalsfjord in the fogbound Mackinac Straits. According to the author, a maritime attorney and former naval officer, the vessel’s owner, U.S. Steel, and the captain, conspired to prevent the crew from escaping to safely as their vessel sank beneath them. Ten sailors died in the tragedy, most of them laboring in the engine room as Capt. Martin Joppich tried in vain to beach his vessel. “Conspiracy” author delves in depth into events before, during and after the tragedy, including the legal battle that ensued.

Although an interesting read, some factual errors make thoughtful readers wonder what else herein is incorrect. Throughout, the author refers what is simply known as Calcite to sailors as Port Calcite, as if Port was part of its formal name (it is not). He several times calls the old George M. Steinbrenner a motor vessel, when in fact it was a steamer. He writes that the ill-fated Edward Y. Townsend belonged to Interlake Steamship Co. when it did not. And he refers to Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw as having a red hull in 1965, when in fact the distinctive new paint job was not applied until nearly 30 years later.

“The Cedarville Conspiracy: Indicting U.S. Steel” L. Stephen Cox; 2005, University of Michigan Press (256 pages, softbound, $16.95)  Available from

Between Two Worlds
by Lee Murdock

Great Lakes balladeer Lee Murdock’s latest CD is a well-chosen mix of originals, compelling traditional tunes and strong versions of songs by other composers.

In the first category, “Casting Your Cares to the Deep” and “On Gravelly Bay” are outstanding, as are the instrumental charmers “The Song in the Shifting Sands” and “Fair Winds at Twilight.” The title track, “Between Two Worlds,” relates how two Great Lakes passenger liners were converted to aircraft carriers during World War II. Fans have been asking Murdock for years to record the traditional song “Eddystone Light,” and he has obliged, including the clever “Sailor’s Alphabet” for good measure. Monica Marshall’s poignant “Old Port,” about the loss of the fish tug Linda E. and the demise of Lake Michigan’s commercial fishing industry, is also a good choice.  Perhaps if this disc has a more reflective feel than previous efforts, it may be in part because of songs such as Woody Guthrie’s tragic“1913 Massacre,” based on a true story that took place in the Copper Country and involved a fire that took the lives of immigrant miners, women and children.  Meanwhile,  Murdock’s musicianship on the guitar(s) is as skilled as ever and his voice sings out loud and clear. Coming hard on the heels of his “Lake Rhymes” book and accompanying CD, this is proof Lee’s time away from the water has been well spent.

“Between Two Worlds” Lee Murdock (CD), 2004. $15.00. To order, visit (15 songs, 64 minutes)

Duluth Shipping News
by Ken Newhams

Visitors to Duluth (and boatwatchers on the Internet) are no doubt familiar with Ken Newham’s “Duluth Shipping News” publication and website, focusing on the goings-on at the Twin Ports. Newhams has released this DVD featuring more than 300 pictures and four videos, taken during 2003 and arranged month-by-month. Not only are there excellent pictures of vessels arriving, departing and loading, there are many unusual images taken aboard these lakers and salties as well. Newhams has what would be an ideal job for most of us, and he clearly enjoys sharing it.

“Duluth Shipping News” (DVD), 2004, Ken Newhams. Available for $23.45 (including tax and shipping) from Duluth Shipping News, 525 Lake Ave. South, Duluth, MN 55802.

The Captain's Chair
by Jay Michael Brandow

When author Jay Michael Brandow found a yellowing photograph of children standing on the deck of a Great Lakes freighter in the wall of an old home he was restoring in Bay City, his curiosity was aroused.  It took more than a year to identify the youngsters in the photo and almost another to track down one of the little girls pictured. As it turned out, Sis Johnson was 84 when he finally caught up with her. The woman’s grandfather, father and uncle were captains on the Great Lakes during the days of wooden ships, and her uncle was Capt. Walter Neal, sole survivor of the Myron, shipwrecked off Whitefish Point in 1919. Sis’ recollections take the reader back to the family home when word of the shipwreck arrived, but the safety of Uncle Water was in question.  It’s a first-hand account from someone who was there… the sense of immediacy and of family making this self-published work a fascinating read.

“The Captain’s Chair” Jay Michael Brandow, 2004. $18.69. To order call 1-888-795-4274. (231 pages, softcover, illustrated)

Erhardt N. Peters
'Spirit of the Lakes'
by David K. Petersen

Author Petersen has gathered a collection of nearly 300 photos taken by the late Erhardt N. Peters, who was a wheelsman for the Pere Marquette fleet, into a book that documents the “golden age” of car ferry service on the lakes.

“Erhardt N. Peters 'Spirit of the Lakes' ” David K. Petersen, 2004, Order from David K. Petersen, 1950 W. Conrad Rd., Ludington, Mi., 49431. (224 pages, softbound, $19.95.

“Eight Steamboats: Sailing Through The Sixties.”
by Patrick Livingston

Author Patrick Livingston worked his way through college in the late 1960s by shipping out on the lakes. He's written a colorful memoir of those days spent sailing on the passenger steamers South American and Columbia, the tanker Mercury, the bulk carriers Paul H. Carnahan, John Hulst, Bethlehem and others. This book, one of the best to come out on the topic since Mark Thompson’s “A Sailor's Logbook,” recounts a colorful chapter in Great Lakes history.
Wayne State University (306 pages, illustrated, softbound, $29.95) - Available from Marine Publishing Co.

S. S. City of Midland 41
by Art Chavez


Noted railroad car ferry historian Art Chavez has published the second book concerning the history of Lake Michigan car ferries. The historic steamship City of Midland 41 sailed the waters of Lake Michigan for nearly 50 years, transporting railroad cars, automobiles and passengers. Built in 1941 by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, she was the flagship of the Pere Marquette’s fleet and her sleek profile was a bold departure from traditional car ferry design. She became known as the “Queen of the Great Lakes Car Ferries.”

Chavez has put together a collection of rare archival photographs and drawings, most of them never previously published. The “41” is documented from her inception and launching through her career with Pere Marquette and C & O Railroads to her present status as a barge. The book also outlines the legacy of the car ferry from the 1880s to the present. Arcadia Publishing, 888-313-2665, (128 pages, $19.99)

Lake Rhymes: Folk Songs of the Great Lakes Region
by Lee and Joann Murdock

Great Lakes balladeer Lee Murdock has, with his wife Joann, released a multi-media work designed to please a multitude of audiences.

“Lake Rhymes” is a songbook and study guide, with an 18-song companion CD containing some of Murdock’s most familiar tunes, including “Rolling Home,” “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “Lost on the Lady Elgin” and “The Great Lakes Song.” Fans can delight in these new arrangements of familiar tunes, musicians can play along with the printed scores and teachers can use the volume in the classroom to create a fun lessons for their students while meeting learning objectives in history, geography, music and language arts.

In addition to the music, “Lake Rhymes” includes an introduction to folk songs in general, including how they are written and passed on; a section of Great Lakes facts and figures; a glossary of Great Lakes terms; a comprehensive map and timeline. Black and white photos and sketches (many by Loudon G. Wilson), brief explanations of the stories behind the songs, plus an eye-pleasing layout help make this volume even more valuable to educators in particular.
Depot Recordings Publications, P.O. Box 11, Kaneville, IL 60114 (146 pages, illustrated, with CD, $30)

St. Clair River: Canadian Shoreline
by Alan Mann


Similar in concept to the local history books published by the stateside Arcadia Press, this volume addresses the Canadian shoreline of the St. Clair River, paying particular attention to the ships that were familiar sights in the area in years past.

Chapters address the upriver and downriver ports, from Point Edward/Sarnia through Stag Island, Mooretown, Courtwright, Sombra, Walpole Island and more. Other subdivisions look back at sailing vessels, overnight steamers, ferries and the St. Clair Flats.

These kinds of local interest books rely heavily on historic photos, and this one especially takes advantage of many rare views from the author’s own files. The captions go the extra mile with historic information, making this book a real gem for the shipping enthusiast.
Looking Back Press. P.O. Box 2131, St. Catharines, Ont., L2R 7S2 (128 pages, illustrated, $22.95, postage included)

Honoring Our Detroit River
by Dr. John H. Hartig

Tracing its history back to the Wyandot Indians, "Honoring Our Detroit River" is a comprehensive volume covering many aspects of the history of the Detroit River and it¹s tributaries.

Hartig and his contributors have put together a book rich in history and technical information. They cover many aspects of Detroit River history past, present and future, mainly from the ecological aspect but exploring other areas as well. The book, which includes many tables, photographs and maps, is broken down into various sections, each one written by a contributor or group of contributors who are noted authorities on the subject of that section. Of particular interest are the last sections of the book, which deal more with the planned future of the Detroit River and immediate area. It outlines plans for more focus on the Detroit riverfront for public use, similar to the Canadian side of the river in Windsor.
Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Mich. (234 pages, $29.95)

The Lighthouse Encyclopedia
by Ray Jones
Subtitled "The Definitive Reference," this new work by prolific lighthouse writer Ray Jones is a must for the library of every lighthouse lover, beginner or veteran.

The coffee-table size volume, produced in association with Lighthouse Digest and the American Lighthouse Foundation, contains 150 spectacular color photographs and another 150 black and white photographs taken by well-known lighthouse photographers around the world, including many Great Lakes lights.
The Globe Pequot Press, PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437 (274 pages, $27.95)

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