Carl D. Bradley

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2008 will be our 5th season of diving this
Great Ship & if your interested in making the
dive of a lifetime let me know !
Capt Bill

The Bradley Transportation Company of Rogers City, Michigan, had the largest self-unloading steel steamer on the Great Lakes built in 1927 and named her CARL D. BRADLEY after the President and Director of the firm. She served in the limestone and coal trades her entire career on the inland seas and set many cargo records in the process. The self-unloading type freighter was not rare on the Lakes at that time. That type of carrier had been in existence since the turn of the century but it had been perfected in the BRADLEY. She was by far the largest carrier on the Lakes at that time as well as being the largest self-unloader. It was a proud day for the citizens of Rogers City when she first steamed into port on her maiden voyage. The majority of her crew were from that small Northern Michigan port and the ship proved her worth to her owners over the next quarter century of her existence. Her days of service came to an end in a violent storm on Lake Michigan on November 18,! 1958. She had left the lower Lake Michigan port of Gary bound for Rogers City in ballast and was buffeted by gale force winds almost immediately after her departure. Heavy seas washed over the bow but the BRADLEY held course towards the northern part of the Lake. At approximately 5:30 that evening she broke in two and sank almost immediately off Gull Island.

Just before going down she had sent out distress signals which were heard by the Coast Guard and a German motor vessel in the vicinity. Both the motor vessel and a US Coast Guard cutter rushed to the position last broadcast and began the search for survivors. Only two men were rescued from the thirty-five crewmen aboard. This was the most severe loss of life on Lake Michigan since the violent gales of the Armistice Day Storms of November 11, 1940. Later investigations and televised photos of her wreck on the bottom of the lake proved the BRADLEY had split in two before she sank. The mighty ship had suffered so severely from the huge seas in the last hours of her existence that she buckled and plunged to the bottom in only a few minutes. Thus ended another career of a gallant ship and the lives of her captain and crew. The city of Rogers City was overwhelmed with grief. Most of the crewmen were residents of that small town and almost every family was involved. The entire Great Lakes community was shocked at the loss of the BRADLEY and the stories of her final days in service and of the bereaved town circulated for many weeks there- after. In these days of extreme care for the safety of ships and men, the story of the BRADLEY could hardly be believed.

Here is the US Coast Guard's report in PDF format from July 5th, 1959.

The Marine Art of J.Clary

The Marine Art of J.Clary

The Marine Art of J.Clary

The Marine Art of J.Clary

The Marine Art of J.Clary

The Marine Art of J.Clary



CARL D. BRADLEY under the Ambassador Bridge. Kenneth E. Smith

Carl D. Bradley in the Detroit River

BUILT: American Shipbuilding Company Lorain, Ohio GROSS REGISTERED TONNAGE: 10,028
LENGTH: 623.2 ENGINES Steam Turbine
BREADTH: 65.2 ENGINE BUILDER: General Electric Company, Schenectady, New York
DEPTH: 30.2

At the Soo

( Left to Right )  Tom, Phil, Bill, Bruno, Marty, Suzanne, Mike

In July of 2004 we visited the wreck of the Carl D Bradley. The Bradley broke her back in a violent gale on November 18th, 1958; only two of her crew of 35 survived. The wreck is located in northern Lake Michigan just south of the Beaver Island Archipelago in a little over 370ffw. At 638ft in length the Bradley was the second largest vessel to ever sink on the Great Lakes, only the Edmund Fitzgerald was larger. The possibility of diving such a historically significant vessel was of great interest to us, our efforts becoming a true quest over the next few years. 

During the winter of 1999 - 2000 my good friend Rob Polich came to me and asked if I was interested in putting together a team of divers to explore the " Queen Of the Lakes.” I recall my response was an unequivocal; “Who, what, where, when?” No one had ever dove the Bradley; it was a virgin site and I was thrilled by the prospect of diving such an interesting, famous and historic vessel. These factors along with the confidence to make these dives were always at the core of our motivation whenever we looked at new, deep sites. I was always excited by the prospect of a fresh wreck site that would allow me to touch history and that was exactly what the Bradley was all about.  

Over the next year we put together what we felt was a group of divers with the skill, experience and interest to make the dive and set our sites on July of 2001. Despite all of our planning and efforts, one factor always remained – the fickle and difficult Great Lakes weather! 

I made the long, fuel draining trip to Beaver Island in July 2001 only to spend three days on the Island because of an unexpected mid - summer storm that quickly closed our window of opportunity for the year. The very next month in August of 2001 a diver from Detroit, Merek Standowicz, made the first successful dive to the wreck.  

Still determined we all agreed to make a return trip in 2002 and try again; once again we were blown out due to weather after a picture perfect previous and post week. Rob and I found ourselves asking; “Is July is a summer not fall month right?” While each of our attempts were in July the actual dates changed slightly feach year and the following summer, July of 2003, the weather turned sour yet again! Frustrated and disgusted I told Rob “I don’t care if I have to sit at top of Lake Michigan for two weeks next year - in  2004 we are going to get on the damn Bradley!” 

Well in July 2004 the weather Gods were smiling (a little anyway) as we made our way South out of our new staging area Manistique Harbor. Soon the wind forecast increased but was still only a one to three foot wave height prediction and the wind was supposed to hold for the next 24 hours. After going over her a number of times in the past I was well aware of the exact location of both the Bow and Stern of the wreck; unanimously we had decided to dive the Pilot house first and hopefully get a second dive in on the Stern.

Rob with his usual hooking skills was on the bow of the Nordic Diver waiting for me to position the boat to what I thought was the correct location; soon I yelled, “Throw it”. In no more then a brief -intensely concentrated moment we were hooked into the wreck. When I asked Rob how our cleat was to the wreck he smiled and said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the hook is through the pilot house window”. As Rob and the first team geared up the wind began to build and in a matter of ten minutes it was obvious conditions were deteriorating and would only worsen.   We headed north back to Manistique Harbor in the now huge waves - their validating size no match for our sentiment of bitter disappointment.  

Some 36 hours later we awoke to a calm clear morning, without a word among us we all just knew this would be the day we would finally dive the Carl D. Bradley. We headed out on a flat glass lake with anticipation and excitement in the air not to be disappointed again.

On our trip out I noticed what looked like another boat wondering around looking for something a few miles from our mooring that we had on the Bradley. After we tied up they came over and it was clear to me that they had been looking for the Bradley and had no idea where she was. The one thing I regret from this trip is having to locate the wreck for someone else because they are incapable of finding it. Following someone to a wreck just shows the world how inept you are.

Over the next few days we made many successful dives on the Carl D Bradley - the site as impressive as we had imagined.  It mattered little that we were the second divers to ever visit her decks; each of us was content and filled with the pride of our efforts.  

Without a doubt in this group the true beauty in Shipwreck diving lies in Seeing & Exploring.

Capt Bill Prince


Other names : none
Official no. : 226776
Type at loss : propeller, steel self-unloading bulk freighter
Build info : 1927, American Shipbuilding Co., Lorain, OH
Specs : 623x65x33 10,028g 7706n
Date of loss : 1958, Nov 18
Place of loss : 12 mi SW of Gull Isl., Beavers Group
Lake : Michigan
Type of loss : storm
Loss of life : 33 of 35
Carrying : in ballast
Detail : Battling 30-foot waves and 65 mph winds , she rode up on a huge wave and broke in two, sinking quickly. The German motor vessel Christian Sartori was first on the scene, but was unable to find any of her crew. Extensive air-sea rescue operation by the Coast Guard yielded just two freezing survivors on a raft 14 hours later. She was bound Buffington Harbor, IL, for Calcite, MI, and was the 2nd largest vessel ever lost on the Lakes. Vessel owners and insurance companies claimed for years that she was simply overwhelmed by the storm, and didn’t break in two, but dives in the spring of 1997 confirmed that she had, thereby proving that it was hull failure rather than an act of God which killed her.
Owned by the Bradley Fleet. Her homeport of Rogers City, MI was also the home of 33 of her crew.
Hull located in Sep '59 in 360' of water.
Sources: lol,mh,slh,glss,sol,is(4-59),h,lmdc,gn,eas,a&f,ns5,mpl,nsp



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