SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- The 729-foot ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, with 28 crewmen and one apprentice seaman on board, sank late Monday or early today in a severe storm that kicked up 25 foot waves on Lake Superior.
The Coast Guard said there was no sign of survivors.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Bob Wiard said search ships in the area -- about 50 miles northwest of Sault Ste. Marie -- found debris and an oil slick.
"They found no survivors," Wiard said. "We're sure it's from the Fitzgerald."
The National Weather Service reported hurricane force winds gusting to 80 miles an hour and waves running to 25 feet.
It said the water temperature was 49 degrees and the air temperature 41. A healthy person, it said, would go into shock within 30 minutes in the water.
An armada of ships and aircraft, some flown from North Carolina, joined the search operations at dawn today. Other vessels spend the night crisscrossing the area, riding flares into the night for illumination.
The first wreckage was sighted at about 4:40 a.m., about 13 miles north of Whitefish Point and eight miles west of Copper Mines Pointe, Ont., near the area where the Fitzgerald disappeared.
The Fitzgerald, built in 1958 at a cost of $8 million, was one of the prize ships of the Great Lakes fleet.
Owned by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. of Milwaukee and operated by the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebey Norton Co. of Cleveland, the Fitzgerald departed from the Burlington Northern docks in Superior, Wis. at 1:15 p.m. Sunday with a cargo of 26,216 tons of taconite ore pellets for Detroit.
Normal complement for the ore carrier was 28 crewmen but there may have been as many as 35 aboard, officials said.
The Fitzgerald was last heard from Monday at 7:10 p.m., EST, when one of its officers radioed the nearby steamer Arthur M. Anderson to say the Fitz was taking on water and had lost two hatch covers.
When she was built in 1958, the Fitzgerald was called the monarch of the Great Lakes fleet. She was named for Edmund Fitzgerald, then president of Northwestern Mutual and now its retired chairman.