Great Lakes Shipwreck Statistics

Quote of the Day

Math is an under-appreciated virtue in politics.

Steve Schmidt, Republican political consultant


Figure 1: Great Lakes Freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank 10-Nov-1975. (Source)

Figure 1: Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank on 10-Nov-1975. (Source)

I was driving home from my cabin construction project yesterday when I heard on the radio Gordon Lightfoot singing about the sinking of the Great Lakes freighter Edmund Fitzgerald (Figure 1). The sinking occurred when I was in high-school, and it was the first time I had ever heard of a sinking on Lake Superior.

Hearing the song got me thinking about shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. I decided to download the shipwreck data and create some pivot tables – my Excel workbook is here.

The number of shipwrecks recorded for all the Great Lakes is shown in Figure 2. Notice how Lake Erie has the greatest number of wrecks by far.

Figure 2: Wrecks By Great Lake.

Figure 2: Wrecks By Great Lake.

Figure 3 shows the 11 most recent shipwrecks, which go back to 1953.

Figure 2: 11 Most Recent Great Lakes Shipwrecks.

Figure 2: 11 Most Recent Great Lakes Shipwrecks.

In recent years, shipwrecks have become much less common (e.g. zero in the 1980s). While the rate of shipwrecks peaked from 1909 to 1909 (yellow highlight), you can see that the rate reduced greatly starting in the 1930s.

Figure 3: Histogram of Shipwreck Dates by Decade.

Figure 3: Histogram of Shipwreck Dates by Decade.

Lake Superior is the only one of the Great Lakes that I have boated on. It is a beautiful lake surrounded by wonderful land forms (e.g. Figure 4). I have friends who chose to build their retirement homes on its shores because it is so beautiful there.

Figure 4: Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior. (Source)

Figure 4: Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior. (Source)

 
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