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Tankship Jupiter Explosion Launched Ric Mixter on Independent Video Career

November 15, 2008       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Last Weeks Meeting - November 11, 2008

Explosion of the Tankship Jupiter in the Saginaw River in 1990 was covered by young television reporters Ric Mixter and Eric Jylha.

Mr. Jylha, program co-chair of the Rotary Club of Bay City, introduced Mr. Mixter last Tuesday as the producer of 30 video productions for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

After he and Mr. Jylha covered the Jupiter disaster, Mr. Mixter said shipwrecks "became an infatuation" with him.

The biggest impact of the Jupiter fire on Mr. Mixter was the fact that it kept reigniting. Just when news crews were easing off and preparing to return to their offices the word would flash: "She's burning again!" and they would rush back to get more film footage.

This experience, he said, was what prompted him to start his own video production firm, Airworthy Productions, in Saginaw.

He has spent the past 18 years documenting shipwrecks on the Great Lakes especially the most sensational ones that have captured headlines across the world.

Mr. Mixter is not alone in his "infatuation" with shipping on the Great Lakes, noting the growth of the "boatnerd" movement, ship groupies as it were, whose hobby is watching lakes shipping, photographing ships and reporting their movements on a popular website

Perhaps the most famous of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking in 1975 is part of his video "Deep Six." That 60 minute DVD also includes the William Moreland and survivor stories from the Cedarville, Carl D. Bradley, Daniel J. Morrell and the devastating storm of 1913.

Why is the Fitzgerald the best known ship sinking on the Great Lakes and one of the most noteworthy in history?

The Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot immortalized Fr. Richard Ingalls' bell-ringing at Mariners' Church in his 1976 song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." During a savage Lake Superior gale on November 10, 1975, the Great Lakes ore freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank near Whitefish Bay with all 29 hands aboard. It was the largest ship ever lost on the "Inland Seas."

The pertinent stanza of Lightfoot's song goes:

"In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'.

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early!"

Father Ingalls, who became Rector of Mariners' Church in 1965, since then has become well known in Detroit's maritime and civic communities for creating annual public services such as the Blessing of the Fleet, Navy League Sunday, and the Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Service.

Mixter's Lake Fury Collection ( also includes "Cutter Rescues," "Final Run: Storms of the Century," and "Safe Ashore: the 1940 Armistice Day Storm."

The storms causing the greatest loss on the lakes occurred in 1905, 1913, 1916, 1940, 1958 and 1966, years covered by Mr. Mixter in his talk to Rotary. In addition, the collision of the steamship Cedarville with the Motor Vessel Topdalsfjord in the Straits of Mackinac in 1965 made history.

In his independent video production career, Mr. Mixter has interviewed several survivors of lakes disasters as well as famed marine explorer Jacques Cousteau.

His videos have been seen on the major television networks, ESPN, the Discovery and History Channels, the Outdoor Channel as well as PBS. A qualified rescue diver, Mr. Mixter is also a pilot and father of three.

Contact: Ric Mixter, Airworthy Productions, 3060 E. Wintergreen, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-498-4550, or visit


"There she goes, now!" Rotarians rushed to see the 428 foot E.M. Ford, a 110-year-old steel ship,
oldest freighter on the Great Lakes, looming through the second story windows
on the Saginaw River to the east. (Related Article)


  • In honor of Veterans Day, originally and sometimes still called Armistice Day, Harry Farris read the poem March of the Dead by Robert Service. He reminisced on the parades he remembered from his youth. Armistice Day commemorated the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day for Nov. 12, 1919. Congress made it an official holiday in 1938. A campaign to change the day to honor all veterans was mounted in the early 50's and President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954.

  • The district Foundation Gala was held last week in Frankenmuth and was attended by a group of Bay City members. The District has raised $3.2 million total for the Foundation. This year we have raised $31,000 toward the Gates Polo Challenge, $18,000 of which came from the Bay City Club.

  • Membership Drive: Remember to invite your prospective Rotary members to the orientation at noon on Wednesday, December 3, at the Stein House.

  • An International Night wrap-up meeting will be held at 11:00 am, this Tuesday (the 18th) before the regular meeting.

  • The One Million Trees international project has been put on hold by Rotary International. The contact in Senegal cannot be reached and the political situation in that country has become difficult and dangerous. None of the $9,000 raised locally has been sent, so no funds have been lost.

  • Rom Bloomfield invited members to a meeting at the Pere Marquette Depot at 2:00 on the 19th. The glass plaque for the historic kiosk will be discussed.

  • Griff Acker announced that planning is underway for this years vocational days. Pinconning schools will be added this year so that will mean more students. You can download the form from this link on the club web site.

    Upcoming Programs

    (See the official schedule at )

  • Nov 18 Bay Arenac Intermediate School District programs . The Skill Center has just completed a $6.5 million expansion of the Student Program Dept. to add a Health and Science Wing. Also, what programs have seen increased enrollment due to adult unemployment?

  • Nov 25 The Bay County Election. Bay County Clerk Cindy Luczak will talk about the election process and how we fared in this record turnout year.

  • Dec 16 The new "green" DEQ building at the foot of Johnson St. Speaker Tim Diebolt, Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality will discuss the building's features and will comment on wind power on the bay.


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    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
    respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
    (Contact Dave Via Email at

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