Nonfiction veteran Schumacher (Mr. Basketball, 2007, etc.) gives a graphic account of a 50-year-old maritime disaster.
On November 18, 1958, the limestone carrier Carl D. Bradley suddenly sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan in fierce weather. Only two sailors from its crew of 35 survived after the huge vessel, more than 600 feet from bow to fantail, broke in half amidships. Launched in 1927, the hardworking ship was weather-beaten, rusty and popping rivets. But it was never determined whether the calamity was due to delayed maintenance or the captain’s faulty judgment. It might have been the rush to make port with a massive load that provoked the catastrophe, suggests Schumacher, who wrote of a similar disaster on Lake Superior in Mighty Fitz (2005). He details Carl D.’s sinking with articulate dispatch and sympathetic directness. The major part of his engrossing text concerns the mariners who went out and never returned, their families, the two survivors, the people of Rogers City, Mich. (the boat’s home port, where most of the crew lived) and the rescue teams from other nearby maritime towns. Rescue gave way to recovery efforts, then to wakes, an inconclusive Coast Guard Board of Inquiry and, most recently, exploratory visits to the broken ship resting in 350 feet of water. Moving this narrative smoothly and vividly through a half-century, the author lays claim to the title of master popular chronicler of Great Lake shipwrecks. Endmatter includes a necrology of crewmen, material from the Coast Guard inquiry and a superfluous glossary.
A signal contribution to nautical Americana.