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Remembering the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald
1.G. Lightfoot, “The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (recorded by G. Lightfoot), On Summertime Dream LP (Reprise Records, Toronto, ON, 1976).
2.H. Bishop, The Night the Fitz Went Down (Lake Superior Port Cities, Duluth, MN, 2000).
3.United States Coast Guard, “Marine Board casualty report: SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinking in Lake Superior on 10 November 1975 with loss of life” (July 26, 1977).
4.National Transportation Safety Board, “Marine accident report: SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinking in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975” (May 4, 1978).
5.D. A. G. Walker, P. H. Taylor, and R. Eatock Taylor, “The shape of large surface waves on the open sea and the Draupner New Year wave,” Appl. Ocean Res. 26 (3–4), 73–83 (May-June 2004).
8.P. Dubard, P. Gaillard, C. Klein, and V. B. Matveev, “On multi-rogue wave solutions of the NLS equation and positon solutions of the KdV equation,” Eur. Phys. J. ST 185 (1), 247–258 (July 2010).
9.J. J. Stoker, Water Waves: The Mathematical Theory with Applications, Wiley Classics Library Ed. (Wiley, Inc., New York, NY, 1992), p. 46.
11.N. Giordano and H. Nakanishi, Computational Physics, 2nd ed. (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2006), pp. 156–180.
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November 10, 2015, marked the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes bulk cargo freighter that suddenly and mysteriously sank during a severe winter storm on Lake Superior. A year after the sinking, Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot wrote and recorded the ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The song became an international hit that made the event the most well-known and controversial shipping disaster on the Great Lakes. The purpose of this article is to commemorate the anniversary of this tragedy by bringing it to the attention of a new generation of students, namely those enrolled in our introductory physics courses. Since most of our students were not yet born when the ship sank, we first establish a historical context for them by providing detailed information about the ship's final voyage and wreckage site. (Lyrics from Lightfoot's ballad headline each of these sections.) We then focus on “rogue waves” and the principle of superposition to produce a simple simulation of the conditions that might have resulted in the giant freighter's sudden sinking.
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