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!

New Pharaohs of GR: Steelcase Pyramid May Host SUPERNAP Data Center

Steelcase Pyramid Grand Rapids Data Center

Squished Pyramid, photo by Gary Syrba

Fox 17 reports that a Nevada-based company has chosen the former Steelcase pyramid as the site for a large data center.

Switch will build a $5 billion, 2 million square-foot SUPERNAP data center at the former Steelcase office building.

The deal is contingent on the passage of three bills currently in the Michigan state legislature.

The $5 billion reflects the costs for both the data centers and the computer servers that will be placed inside the buildings over a multi-year period, according to the company.  SUPERNAP Michigan will be the largest data center campus in the eastern U.S. and will serve Switch’s current and new clients.

Switch says that have 1,000 clients, including eBay, Intel, Shutterfly, Amgen, HP, JP Morgan Chase, Google, Amazon, Fox Broadcasting and many more.

Read on for more and get the details on the legislative changes the deal hinges on at the Freep. Here’s some cool drone footage of the Steelcase Pyramid as well. Site Selection Magazine has a writeup on the building with the tale of the tape to one of Michigan’s most iconic structures designed by Grand Rapids architectural firm The WBDC Group:

In addition to its pyramid-shaped design, the Steelcase Corporate Development Center offers several other unique amenities. The central atrium features a five-story rotating pendulum suspended over a reflective water pool. Vaulted ceilings and expansive windows throughout the building, combined with exterior balconies, provide an open and spacious workplace that makes liberal use of natural light.

The building has 333,000 sq. ft. of office space and 242,000 sq. ft. of research and development space.

Other on-site amenities include a 14,995-sq.-ft. full-service cafeteria, 12,500-sq.-ft. data center, 8,351-sq.-ft. two-story photo studio, exercise and locker rooms, card-access security, on-site video surveillance and 1,014 parking spaces.

View Gary’s photo bigger and see more in his In the City (Grand Rapids) slideshow.

More buildings & architecture on Michigan in Pictures.

Definitions of Danger

Surfing the Storm

California Dreamin’, photo by Snap Happy Gal Photography

Heather of Snap Happy Gal Photography was one of many photographers who made the trek to Grand Haven for a weekend storm that was supposed to produce massive waves. While Heather says she didn’t see anything quite as big as the the 20-footers forecast, the lake was still putting on a rocking show!

Often when I post a photo like this, I get some blowback from a reader or two who thinks that pictures like this aren’t OK because someone might somehow get hurt. Heather’s thoughts mirror my own on this:

So this guy – with his superior swimming ability, experience and thick wetsuit (with gloves, booties, and full hood + helmet) is crazy. Who would ever put their life in such danger?

Oh – all of us. All the time. Like when I drove in a metal box at 75mph on my way to take photos of this guy.

View this bigger and definitely follow Snap Happy Gal on Facebook for more!

More Michigan surfing shots on Michigan in Pictures!

Warren Dunes, Michigan’s Most Popular State Park

Warren Dunes State Park Sawyer Michigan

Warren Dunes State Park, Sawyer Michigan, photo by Charles Edward Miller

Beautiful scene earlier in November at Warren Dunes State Park in southwest Michigan, just north of the state line. The History of Sawyer from explains:

Edward K. Warren, of Three Oaks, was a pioneering conservationist. Long before he acquired his enormous wealth, Warren bought 300 acres of woodland in an effort to preserve a forest primeval. Wildlife abounds around the trails, which meander through Warren Woods that remains undisturbed and a natural treasure. Not surprisingly, Warren Woods can be found Warren Woods Road between Three Oaks and Lakeside. Warren Dunes State Park is a 1500-acre preserve located on Red Arrow Highway between Sawyer and Bridgman. Warren bought this land at the turn of the century again with conservation as his goal. Although most in the area saw the land as worthless, Warren wanted to preserve the majestic dunes that soar to more than 240 feet. The Park has a pristine two-mile beach as well as wildflowers and mature forests. Over a million people visit Warren Dunes annually [the state’s most popular park].

View Charles’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his massive Warren Dunes State Park Sawyer Michigan slideshow.

More about Warren Dunes and more dunes on Michigan in Pictures.

A Force of Nature

A force of nature

A Force of Nature, photo by Dale DeVries

Dale took this photo of the Grand Haven Lighthouse yesterday and writes:

. . . Rita, . . . Sandy . . . Lake Michigan! Like the Weather Channel commercial, this lake which is only 60-80 miles across makes some of the best Gales of November! Grand Haven was busier than a summer’s day today, kind of disappointed I could not get a Pronto Pup or a Dairy Treat!

View his photo background bigilicious and see more in his The Best of West Lake slideshow.

PS: Heres’ the strongest storm on the Great Lakes – October 2010. (also at Grand Haven Light)



#TBT Big Waves on Lake Michigan Edition

And they call this a lake

And they call this a Lake, photo by RJE

The Detroit Free Press reports that massive waves of up to 20 feet in height are forecast for Lake Michigan:

An intense low pressure system is still projected to slam into the western Great Lakes on Wednesday night.

The main hazard with this storm will be incredibly strong winds in excess to 45 m.p.h. at times. This will cause numerous issues, including downed trees and the potential for power outages.

In addition to impacts on land, Lake Michigan will also suffer the wrath of this strong fall storm, where waves could reach as high as 20 feet offshore. A gale watch has been issued by the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids for the Lakeshore and will be in effect from Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon.

NOAA’s Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System has a ton of resources for visualizing live data and forecasts for all of the Great Lakes. Be sure to check out the animation of forecasted wave heights on Lake Michigan – pretty cool to watch. In case you’re wondering, the tallest (recorded) wave on Lake Michigan is 23′ from September of 2011. Of course the bouys shut down for the winter in December, and they only started measuring in 1988.

Also check out the Grand Haven Surfcam for a live look! 

RJE caught this massive wave breaking against the Ludington lighthouse back in November of 2011. View the photo of  big as Lake Michigan and see more of his great photos of Ludington on Flickr!

More Michigan lighthouses, more waves and more about the Ludington North Breakwater Light can all be found on Michigan in Pictures.

In honor of all who served

Veterans Memorial Wyandotte

Thank You for Keeping Us Safe…, photo by Kenneth Raymond

Thanks to all of you veterans and your families in Michigan and elsewhere for your service and sacrifice.

View Kenneth’s photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.