Saturday, September 6, 2008

Edmund Fitzgerald Life Ring Looks Like A Fake

Edmund Fitzgerald Life Ring Looks Like A Fake
DETROIT (AP) ― The Edmund Fitzgerald, already the stuff of Great Lakes legend, has spawned another tale.

A vacationing family hunting for rocks along a remote patch of Lake Superior shoreline earlier this month believed they had found a life ring from the famed ship that sank roughly 200 miles away 32 years ago. It reads "Edmund Fitzgerald" in faded but mostly legible white letters, and matched in many ways a ring recovered from the ship now on display at a shipwreck museum.

But the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum received a visitor recently who refutes the ring's authenticity.

Cynthia Edwards, of Oakland County's West Bloomfield Township, says her father acquired the orange preserver more than 20 years ago and stenciled "Edmund Fitzgerald" on it.

The ring was kept at the family's cabin along Lake Superior and the Eagle River -- not far from where it ultimately was found in the Upper Peninsula's Keweenaw Peninsula -- until it was lost about two years ago.

Her father painted the ship's name on the ring as kind of a remembrance of the ship, Edwards told The Associated Press on Monday.

"It was never to trick anybody or make anybody think it was real," she said.

Edwards told a museum employee last week the truth behind the orange preserver.

"With the information coming in now, it looks more and more like it's not from the Edmund Fitzgerald," said Tom Farnquist, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, which owns the museum.

Farnquist believed it could be the real deal but made no promises when Joe Rasch and his family brought the ring to the museum in Whitefish Point in early August. It matches in size and configuration to the ring on display, but has some key differences: The one Rasch found has no "S.S." before "Edmund Fitzgerald" and reads "Duluth" on its back side.

Farnquist said the differences were puzzling but at least the latter came with a plausible explanation: The Milwaukee-based ship spent its winters in Duluth, Minn.

Rasch, an apple farmer from Conklin, near Grand Rapids, said he plans to hang it in his shed, but wouldn't be opposed to returning it if Edwards' family wants it back. He added he's disappointed by the news but accepts it.

"You can't change the facts," he said Monday. "What appears isn't always so."

That also could sum up many of the stories that swirl around the ship that sank in a vicious storm Nov. 10, 1975, killing 29 men, Farnquist said.

"There have been three different theories about (why it sank)," Farnquist said. "Three expeditions have been done by the ... society, but there's no evidence to prove those theories.

"It's still a mystery why the Edmund Fitzgerald went down."