Gales of November
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin'
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind
These lyrics, from the Gordon Lightfoot song on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, describe the Gales of November. Lasting from late fall into early winter, Lake Superior often comes alive with winds that often exceed 40 MPH, creating spectacular waves that rise up to 30 feet.
The gales are created by air pressure differences between low-pressure systems and high-pressure systems. The greater the difference, the higher the wind speeds. You can see large white-capped waves on Lake Superior, just like you’d see on the ocean.
You haven’t seen Lake Superior until you’ve seen what the Gales of November make her do!
These gales have produced some of the lake’s most violent storms that have sunk many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank on November 10, 1975. In 2010, the Extratropical Cyclone hit the North Shore with winds up to 65 miles per hour. Luckily, no ships were lost then.
Most would not want to brave the lake during these conditions, but many people head to the North Shore in hopes to catch the sight from shore or some nice waves on their surf boards. That’s right, surf boards! Surfing has increased in popularity on Lake Superior in recent years.
During the early winter months, ships stay closer to the shore where the waters are safer. It’s the best time to spot ships sailing between ports on Lake Superior.