November 18, 1958: The Wreck of the Carl D Bradley

Steamer Carl D Bradley Rodgers City Mich

Steamer Carl D Bradley Rogers City Mich, photo by UpNorth Memories/Don Harrison

Every year, I revisit the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10th. I do this because I remember the ferocity of the winds on the day of the wreck vividly from my childhood, because as a Michigander Lightfoot’s song is probably coded in my DNA by now, and also because it’s very popular with readers. Nonetheless, the feature Should musicians decide the shipwrecks we know? from IPR News Radio by Peter Payette & Morgan Springer definitely struck a chord. There are thousands of ships that have gone down the world’s eighth sea, and so many families that have felt the loss when a sailor doesn’t return from one of the most dangerous jobs there is. We’d do well to remember some of the others as well!

On this day in 1958, my vote for the most devastating Great Lakes shipwreck of the modern era took place. 33 of 35 crew members perished in the wreck, and 23 of them were from the town of Rogers City that boasted a population of less than 4000 people. The Presque Isle County Historical Museum’s website for the Steamer Carl D. Bradley tells the tale of the wreck of the Bradley:

The steamer was 638 feet long overall, with a 65-foot beam, a depth of 33 feet and a cargo capacity of 14,000 tons of crushed stone. The unloading boom was 160 feet long. The engineering and propulsion plant on the Carl D. Bradley was similar to that on the T.W. Robinson which was built two years before the Carl D. Bradley.

…The Carl D. Bradley, traveling light departed Buffington, Indiana around 9:30 pm, Monday, November 17, and headed up Lake Michigan bound for the Port of Calcite. Roland Bryan, a sailor since age fourteen, was the master. This trip was the last for the season and the steamer was going home. The Bradley never made it. In less than 24 hours the Carl D. Bradley was on the bottom of Lake Michigan and 33 of the 35-man crew were dead or missing.

When the vessel left Buffington, the winds were blowing up to 35 miles per hour from the south. The storm that was about to engulf the Bradley was developing over the plains when a cold front from the north met a warm front over the plains. The temperature in Chicago had dropped about 20 degrees that day. The forecast warned of gale winds. The crew prepared for severe weather by securing the unloading boom and the hatches. The steamer followed the route up the Wisconsin shore to Cana Island then changed course and cut across Lake Michigan toward Lansing Shoal. As the wind velocity increased, the crew filled the ballast tanks to maximum practical condition. By 4:00 pm of the next day, the 18th, the winds had reached 65 miles per hour. Even though the lake was rough and the winds high, the boat rode the heavy seas with no hint of the laboring.

Captain Bryan had asked the cooks to serve an early dinner. He knew the turn from Lake Michigan toward Lake Huron would put heavy weather broadside of the vessel. He wanted to give the mess crew the opportunity to clean up and secure before turning. The mess room was full of crewmembers anticipating going home.

About 5:30 pm First Mate Elmer Flemming radioed Calcite that the Bradley would arrive at 2:00 am. Then a “loud thud” was heard. In the pilothouse Captain Bryan and Flemming looked aft and saw the stern sag. Flemming immediately sent a distress signal over the radio. “Mayday! Mayday! This is the Carl D. Bradley. Our position is approximately twelve miles southwest of Gull Island. We are in serious trouble! We’re breaking up!” Captain Bryan sounded the general alarm, signaled the engine room to stop the ship, and blew the whistle to abandon ship. The power system failed and the lights in the bow section went out. The Bradley heaved upward near amidships and broke in two. The forward section rolled over and sank. The stern end plunged to the bottom. Within a few minutes the Carl D. Bradley was gone.

Read on for much more including theories of how the ship sank and the story of how deckhand Frank Mays & Elmer Flemming survived the wreck. At the website you’ll also find some cool old photos of the ship, newspaper clippings and photos of the crewmen lost at sea. The Wikipedia entry for the Carl D Bradley is particularly good as well with a lot more details!

This trailer for November Requiem, a DVD about the Carl D Bradley, the impact on Rogers City and the dive to the Bradley:

View Don’s photo big as the Bradley, check out more of his freighter postcards & pics, and friend him up on Facebook for lots more great old photos of Michigan.

PS: I added a new category that I somehow didn’t have already: Michigan shipwrecks – enjoy!

PPS: Apparently great minds this alike – check this out from today’s Interlochen Public Radio!

Way above the Mighty Mac

Mackinac Bridge from Above

The Mackinac Bridge, photo by FotoLense

Well while we’re up in the air (see yesterday) why not stay there?

View this photo background bigtacular and see more including some more aerials from the area in FotoLense’s Mackinac Island July 2013 slideshow.

There’s some great facts about the Mackinac Bridge if you click the photo and a ton more on the Mighty Mac from Michigan in Pictures!

#TBT: Beach Day at Port Austin

Beach Day at Port Austin Lake Huron

Beach Day at Port Austin, photo courtesy Don Harrison/UpNorth Memories

I believe this spot is now the Port Austin Harbor, but if you’re looking for a swim, the Port Crescent State Park on Lake Huron looks pretty great!

Check the photo out background big and see TONS more pics mainly from Michigan in Don’s massive UpNorth Memories Photo Tribute to Michigan Historian Dave Tinder slideshow.

More beaches, more Lake Huron and more Throwback Thursdays on Michigan in Pictures!

Michigan Rock(s)

Michigan Rock

Michigan Rock, photo by Seasons Photography

A few weeks ago I featured a great shot of kayaking to Turnip Rock from Seasons Photography. Here’s another shot from that trip!

View the photo bigger, see more in their Michigan slideshow and visit the Seasons Photography website.

Kayaking to Turnip Rock

Kayak at Turnip Rock

Turnip Rock, Port Austin, MI, photo by Seasons Photography

The second in our series of “Cool Places Your Kayak Can Take You” features this cool rock formation in Lake Huron. Port Austin Kayak’s page on kayaking to Turnip Rock says:

A trip to Turnip Rock in Port Austin is unmistakably one of the best activities for kayakers on Lake Huron. The trip consists of a 7 mile out-and-back trip via the Point aux Barques trail. The shallow waters surrounding Turnip Rock allow you to get out and enjoy the area as well as snap a few photos while you are there. Be sure to wear suitable footwear if you are going to exit the kayak as the rocks are slippery. For an account of what it’s like kayaking out to Turnip Rock, read this adventurer’s great story. While this story also goes out to the lighthouse, that leg of the trip is for experienced kayakers only and is reserved for the calmest weather days, as you will be kayaking two miles out into Lake Huron.

Please note that the property surrounding Turnip Rock is privately owned, which is why kayaking is the premier way to access the rock. The owners of the surrounding properties take great care of the land and we ask that you respect their space by not trespassing or littering.

If you don’t have a kayak, they can certainly rent you one. That link goes to one of my favorite photographer’s trips: Lars Jensen and his Turnip Rock expedition.

View the photo bigger and see more in Seasons Photography’s Michigan slideshow.

More kayaks & kayaking and more about Turnip Rock on Michigan in Pictures.

Better Know a Michigan State Park: Port Crescent State Park edition

Port Crescent State Park

Port Crescent State Park, Michigan, photo by Zack Schindler

The Michigan DNR says that Port Crescent State Park:

…is located at the tip of Michigan’s “thumb” along three miles of sandy shoreline of Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Some of the modern campsites offer a waterfront view, either of the Bay or the Old Pinnebog River channel. Port Crescent recently added a new camper cabin which sleeps six and has a scenic view of Saginaw Bay. A wooden boardwalk parallels the day-use shoreline offering many scenic vistas of Saginaw Bay. The park also offers excellent fishing, canoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, birding, and hunting opportunities.

And see the map and book campsites here.

View Zack’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Fuji X-series slideshow.

More state parks and more incredible Michigan wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Lighthouses, Engineers & Orlando Metcalfe Poe

Poe Reef under construction

Poe Reef Lighthouse under construction, courtesy National Archives & Lighthouse Friends

Estately has compiled a list of what each state has the most of and for once, Michigan appears to have come off well:

Michigan has the most lighthouses and the most engineers per capita. So if you’re a photographer looking for a romantic getaway weekend with an eligible engineer, then Michigan is your paradise.

Click through for the whole list from Alabama (racist tweets) to Wyoming (people who chew tobacco).

It was easy to find a connection between lighthouses (of which we once had 247, still at least 125) and engineers (60,000) in the person of Orlando Metcalfe Poe, who coincidentally enough, would be celebrating his 183rd birthday today. After reviewing his service in the Civil War, Terry Pepper of Seeing the Light writes in Orlando Metcalfe Poe: The Great Engineer of the Western Great Lakes:

With the end of the Civil War, Poe assumed the position of Engineer Secretary of the Lighthouse Board in 1865, in which capacity he was charged with the supervision of building projects. In 1870, he was promoted to Chief Engineer of the Upper Great Lakes Lighthouse District.

In this capacity, Poe was responsible for all lighthouse construction, and he was largely responsible for the design of a style of lighthouse tower that has become known as the “Poe style” tower. These towers are all tall brick structures, with a gentle taper from bottom to top. All of the Poe designed feature graceful embellishments in the form of masonry gallery support corbels and arch topped windows. Exemplified by the towers at Grosse Pointe and Presque Isle, all together Poe was responsible for the construction of a number of such towers throughout Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron.

…Many consider Poe’s crowning achievement to be the engineering, design and supervision of a new lock to at Sault St. Marie during the 1890’s. This project was instrumental in the development of commerce on the Great Lakes, permitting large ore carrying vessels from mining regions bordering Lake Superior to access the lower Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard. At a length of eight hundred feet, and with a width of 100 feet wide, the new lock was the largest in the world, and in honor of the designer was named “Poe Lock,” a name that it carries to this day.

Connect the dots to the Poe Reef Lighthouse, about which Lighthouse Friends explains:

From the southeast point of Bois Blanc Island, a spit covered with fifteen feet of water extends a mile into Lake Huron, and five-eighths of a mile beyond this spit lies dangerous Poe Reef, a detached shoal, with a least depth of just twelve feet. In 1892, the Craig Shipbuilding Company of Toledo, Ohio was contracted to build four lightships for use on the Great Lakes. LV 62, a wooden-hulled vessel with a length of just over eighty-seven feet, was placed on Poe Reef on September 29, 1893, while her three sister ships LV 59, LV 60, and LV 61 were stationed, respectively, on Bar Point, Eleven Foot Shoal, and Corsica Shoal. With a red hull and POE REEF stenciled on its sides in white letters, LV 62 displayed a fixed white light from her foremast to mark the north side of the eastern entrance to South Channel.

LV 62 served Poe Reef, which is named after Orlando M. Poe, who served as the chief engineer of the eleventh lighthouse district, through the 1910 season, and then swapped stations with LV 59. In 1915, Poe Reef received a steel-hulled lightship, when LV 96 replaced LV 59. LV 96 marked the reef through the 1920 shipping season, and the following spring LV 99 started its service at Poe Reef.

The Lake Carriers’ Association had requested a permanent lighthouse and fog signal for Poe Reef as early as 1913, but it wasn’t until 1926 that the Commissioner of Lighthouses requested funds for such a project. Besides being less costly to maintain, lighthouses had an additional advantage over lightships: they could remain on station throughout the year rather than having to be withdrawn when ice started to form on the lakes.

Read on for more information and photos of the Poe Reef lightship, the construction of the lighthouse and modern photos. Also tune in the Michpics Facebook for a recent photo of Poe Reef.

More history and lots more lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures – enjoy your weekend everyone!