Carl D Bradley sinking 42nd anniversary


Nov 30, 2000
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Today is the 42nd anniversary of the loss of the ore carrier Carl D. Bradley.
Here's a short summary on this tragic ship:
The S.S. Carl D. Bradley was once the largest Great Lakes ore boat until, ironically, the Edmund Fitzgerald's entrance of service the very same year the Brad would be lost displaced the her from that hallowed place.
The Bradley's hull was worn out by the time of what was supposed to be her final voyage of the season in November of 1958, and her owners had budgeted an $800,000 overhaul which would have given the ship a brand-new one. Slated to take place once the '58 season closed.
Her weakned hull was the prime factor in her destruction on that fatal night in 1958 on Lake Michigan's storm-roiled waters.
The Bradley was nearing her destination of Rogers City, Michigan, at 5:31 p.m. on November 18th, when an alarmingly unusual noise compelled Captain Roland Bryan and First Mate Elmer Fleming, in the pilothouse, to look back down the Brad's spar deck. They saw that the ship was beginning to break apart!
Fleming sent out mayday call after mayday call, and Bryan urged the crew over the loudspeaker to grab their life jackets, and then gave the "abandon ship" signal on the ship's whistle.
At 5:45 p.m., the Bradley broke in two.
Some of the crew tried to launch one of the lifeboats on the aft deckouse, but to no avail.
Most of the men had donned life jackets by the time they were plunged into the water as the Brad rapidly went down, but with the water only 36 degrees, and the air in the twenties, death came slowly but surely to many.
First Mate Fleming and watchman Frank Mays wound up almost on top of the Bradley's only life raft when they hit the water, and they scrambled aboard it, and tired to pull aboard other crewmen in the water around them. Finally getting two men into the raft. Watchman Gary Strzelecki, and deckhand Dennis Meredith.
By the time the Coast Guard cutter Sunew saw the raft the next day, Strzelecki and Meredith had died, and were not even on the raft. For Meredith had been lost when the raft capsized during the night and the others had to right it and scramble back in, and Strzelecki had gone into shock and slipped off despite Fleming and May's efforts to keep him aboard.
Tragically, four instead of two could have lived had only the last flare in the raft fired when Fleming spied a nearby ship in the rain and wave-swept darkness shortly after the Brad sank. Yet the flare did not fire when Fleming tried to set it off...
Fleming and Mays did not want to immedediately be taken by helicopter from the Sundew to a hospital, but elected to stay for the rest of the search in case any of the rest of their shipmates were still alive.
Sadly, they were to be dissapointed.
33 men died on the Carl Bradley. 3 more than the Edmund Fitzgerald's 29.
May peace be to the ashes those who died on the Carl Bradley 42 years ago today, and my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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There is an unusal book that contains the Bradley story in great detail. This book is really two books in one and carries the main title of "Fire & Ice: Two Deadly Wisconsin Disasters."

Half of the book is "Shipwreck On Lake Michigan" by Don Davenport. He gives a chilling account (no pun intended) of the whole affair. It is a classic shipwreck tale that deserves to be published on its own.

The other half is "Fire At Peshtigo" by Robert W. Wells. This book is about the great Peshtigo, Wisconsin fire on October 8, 1871. We now celebrate fire prevention day on the anniversary of this fire. There was a much smaller fire on the same day, it only burned Chicago.

The only information I have about this book is that the publisher is:

Northword
P.O. Box 5634
Madison, WI 53705


-- David G. Brown
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Thanks for the posting about the Carl Bradley.

It's not unusual that this comes only 7 days after the Edmund Fitzgerald's anniversary. The months of November and December are the worst for Great Lakes ships.

Today, this history of horror and tragedy has become a tourist attraction. When people hear of a forthcoming storm they travel up to Duluth, or someplace along the shore, rent a room, and watch it happen - - the storms are that violent!

I've heard that 1913 had some terrible storms that sank dozens of ships.

Also, in the 1940s there was the famous "Big Blow" that caught everyone off guard, i.e., men out in the woods hunting for deer, ships on the Great Lakes, etc., were all stranded, and many died. My grandmother told me that she had been washing the front steps that day, and the storm came in so fast that the soapy water on the steps froze outright.

On Dec. 4, the 91st anniversary of a very mysterious sinking is coming up, the Marquette Bessemer No. 2. The ship's whistle was heard off the Lake Erie shore at several locations during the storm. Then, it disappeared. Some members of crew were found in a lifeboat, all frozen. One of them had brought an assortment of knives with him. The ship's Captain McLeod, was washed ashore. He had slashes on his body. Divers still have not located this shipwreck.

Thanks again for the memorial on the Carl Bradley.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Early winter storms on the Great Lakes often start with a warm south or southwest wind. That brings lots of moisture into the region to turn into snow.

During November the lake water temperatures are "warm" relative to the wind. Cold wind over warm water will lift the largest waves for a given windspeed and fetch. The air is more dense in the fall because it is colder. In spring, the storm winds are generally warmer than the water, so lift somewhat smaller waves. The wave height difference is slight, but significant enough to make November more deadly than April even though April storms are more numerous.

Waves on the Great Lakes are always "confused" compared to the ocean because of the surrounding land. Much of the shoreline (especially of Lake Superior) is cliffs. The energy of waves striking a vertical surface is reflected back into the lake. This creates wave patterns moving at different directions from the storm pattern.

When one wave pattern crosses another, something interesting happens. A small patch of lake suddenly becomes noticeably calmer if the peaks of one line up with the troughs of the other. Conversely, a monster wave can develop seemingly out of nowhere if the peaks and troughs of both wave systems line up.

The area of Lake Superior where the Fitzgerald went down is famous for the "Three Sisters." This is a 3-wave phenomenon apparently the result of reflected energy from the Michigan shoreline. The first sister is a wave about double the size of the storm waves. Each sister is progressively larger with the third wave the killer.

I spoke to a commercial fisherman about the Three Sisters several years ago. His boat had been working one end of a net with another boat about 1,000 feet away at the other end. He watched helplessly as the sisters clobbered the other boat. "Drop the net," he told his crew. They started for their fellow fishermen, fearing the worst. This story has a happy ending. The crew of the other boat survived, although their craft was a floating wreck. The net was lost.

-- David G. Brown
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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I would like to correct something in my previous posting. It was Kamloops which sank on Dec. 4, and in 1927. It foundered off Isle Royale, in Lake Superior. The Marquette-Bessemer sank in December 1909, but I don't yet have the exact day that it went down.
 

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