A shift in venue and the upcoming 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald converge this weekend to make for a robust lineup at the annual Gales of November event today and Saturday.
The Gales of November moves to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center for its 28th annual event and Tammy Sundbom Otterson expects more than 400 visitors over the course of the weekend for an expanded lineup of guest speakers, tours and other sessions on the maritime industry's past and present.
"With the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Fitzgerald we've been able to put together a great mix," said Sundbom Otterson, executive director for the Lake Superior Marine Museum Association.
The Gales of November serves as both an annual conference for maritime enthusiasts who come from all over and the Canal Park museum's primary fundraiser. This year the museum association is raffling off a Lake Superior cruise aboard an ore carrier next spring that's already drawn lots of online interest.
"This lake really is so unique and special," Sundbom Otterson said.
New this year will be a panel discussion Saturday at noon, with three Fitzgerald experts teaming with two family members of sailors who were lost in the tragedy. Pam Johnson, and Jack Borgeson are the daughter and son to two of the 29 men who perished aboard the Fitzgerald - Robert Rafferty and Duluth's Thomas Borgeson, respectively. Rafferty was notable for being the temporary steward (first cook) brought aboard when the ship's regular cook was felled by an ulcer.
"Any time you have a chance to bring in family members you do it," said Sundbom Otterson, adding it was an honor to land the duo as special guests.
Stephen Brooks kicks off the Gales today at noon, when the president of the binational Chamber of Marine Commerce makes his way from Ottawa, Ontario for his keynote address, "Winds of Change," to discuss how the Fitzgerald tragedy led to changes that made the Great Lakes one of the safest shipping corridors in the world.
Michigan author Frederick Stonehouse will deliver Saturday's 9 a.m. keynote address talking about the ship's reality and legend.
"It's not a Gales without Frederick Stonehouse," Sundbom Otterson said.
There are loads of other events and speakers, including a performances of "Ten November," the play based on the wreck of the Fitzgerald.
Same-day registrants should be at the Lake Superior Ballroom today at 11 a.m. For the complete two-day schedule, go to lsmma.com