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What Happened to the Carl D. Bradley?

Before encountering the storm that induced the downfall of the Carl D. Bradley, the vessel already required repairs as it suffered from injuries and damage. Even though the ship needed to be fixed, its owner preferred to send the Bradley to accomplish deliveries. 

When the Carl D. Bradley vessel ventured towards one final limestone delivery, they encountered 40-foot waves and 60 mph winds, causing the downfall of the large freighter. Out of the 35 crewmates, only two survived. 

The 30-Year-Old Carl D. Bradley Ship

Recognized as one of the most infamous shipwrecks among people in Rogers City, Michigan, the Carl D. Bradley remains one of the most tragic shipwrecks in a lake. The Carl D. Bradley vessel is a steel freighter built in the American Ship Building Company during the late 1920s.

Valerie van Heest, Board Director of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association and author, describes the massive size of the Carl D. Bradley in a 2016 article published for WKYC Studios.

The Carl D. Bradley was a 639-foot-long freighter – the largest ship sailing on the Great Lakes at the time it went down, it was built in 1927, specifically to haul limestone from Rogers City, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois for use in making steel.

Valerie Van Heest

The Carl D. Bradley vessel was a persistent ship that served for 30 years. Within its three decades of service, the Carl D. Bradley shipped always emerged intact, surviving against its encounters with powerful storms, excluding the tempest the large ship faced in northern Lake Michigan. (Source: WKYC Studios

The Wreckage and Its Tragic Aftermath

Before meeting the storm that caused its downfall, the Bradley vessel endured injuries and damage, which its owner, U.S. Steel, neglected. On November 18, 1958, the U.S. Steel decided to dispatch the ship for one final limestone delivery before its repair session. But as the vessel was on the way towards the repair location in Manitowoc Harbor, U.S. Steel called in another limestone delivery.

Just before it entered the Manitowoc harbor, U.S. Steel radioed the Bradley’s captain, Roland Bryan, ordering him to return to Rogers City for yet another load of limestone. The crew was mad, they had looked forward to getting home in time for Thanksgiving, but another round trip could result in them missing the holiday with their families. And on top of that, a storm front had moved in, and the lake started to swell.

Valerie Van Heest

When they reached the half of Lake Michigan, the crew and the Bradley encountered waves that reached 40 feet and winds as strong as 60 mph. After riding up a monstrous wave, the vessel tore into two and sank quickly. When Seaman Frank Mays saw sparks emerging from a tear in the deck, with the stern flapping up and down, Seaman Mays already knew that the Bradley would sink.

With only a few minutes left, the 35-person-crew ushered to acquire lifeboats and auxiliary rafts. Only four people got on a raft. On the following day, on November 19, two persons persisted while the others died from the cold, making the total loss from the Carl D. Bradley shipwreck 33 out of 35 people. (Source: WKYC Studios)

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