The discharge point system started to take its toll on
the crew. Replacements started to replace replacements. The Communications Control team left for Pearl Harbor. They reached a point where only a third of the original crew was left aboard. Then in early January 1946, orders were received to make all preparations to get underway for the west coast. The 804 was to be OTC traveling in company with the PC's 589, 594 and the PC-1171. The small flotilla island hopped across the Pacific stopping at Guam,
Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. They made landfall off San
Diego, on 22 February 1946 exactly one year from the
day they first arrived. Decommissioning followed shortly after and the ex-PC(C)-804 was transferred to the Maritime Commission on 14 July 1948 and sold to the Global Marine Exploration Company of Los Angeles, California. But that's another story.
- R. W. Daly/PC-1181***************
M/V Submarex, ex-PC-804. When the PC(C) 804 was laid up in 1946, she was carefully preserved for future use. By 1948, however, the forecast of future wartime needs had changed so drastically that the majority of the subchasers were being sold for scrap, and the 804 was among these. The buyers weren't restricted in their use of these vessels, and if they could make a better deal selling the whole ship than selling its components, that's what they did. The ex-subchaser hulls didn't make especially good vessels for the transportation or fishing industry. The auction/disposal price was low and that appealed to buyers who wanted to experiment with various innovative and unproven ideas such as the oil companies that had been investigating the practicality of drilling for oil in off-shore locations.The coast of southern California was looking like a potential oil development area, and four oil companies joined forces to explore this possibility. The companies were Conoco, Union, Shell and Superior and this consortium was called The Cuss Group. The group acquired the ex-PC(C)-804 in 1948 and named her the "Submarex" implying that she was a sub-marine exploration vessel. The joint venture group also owned the ex-PC-1599, LSM-251, two APC's and
three LCM's.She was outfitted to take samples of the sea bed by dropping a bucket and catching whatever came up. This was later refined to dropping a hollow pipe, which recovered a short section of the sea floor intact and eventually by adding additional joints of pipe so that the amount of
penetration could be controlled.
The method developed into what is now known as
piston coring and the pipe system, of course, is what is
now known as "drill pipe." Soon after a derrick was built
that hung over the side of the ship and folded down on
the deck for stowage. Once the coring method was perfected, the group went on to use the Submarex to develop equipment to actually drill oil wells from a floating vessel.Although land-based oil drilling had been going on for many years, including on fixed drilling structures in
shallow water, to the best of my knowledge, the Submarex was the first floating drill ship.As offshore drilling became more of a reality, the need for a joint venture between the Cuss members disappeared and the personnel involved in the drilling part of it were given the option of taking over the assets and becoming a private company. In 1958, they became the Global Marine Exploration Company, a company that is still a strong player in contract oil drilling today. They
converted additional drilling rigs out of hulls better suited to the task and later built the first built-for-purpose drilling ship. The Submarex drifted into spending most of her part time retirement pier side at Long Beach, CA. It was during this dry spell, however, that her most interesting assignment came up.In November of 1958, the 639 foot Great Lakes ore carrier, the Carl D. Bradley sank in Lake Michigan during a winter storm, taking 33 of the 35 crew members with her. Resulting compensatory claims on behalf of the lost crew members led to a contract with Global Marine to drill and recover metal samples from her hull. In the fall of 1959, Submarex was reactivated and made the 7,000 mile voyage to the Great Lakes.The SS Carl D. Bradley, Registration No. 226776, a 639 foot self unloading bulk ore carrier, was built by the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio in 1927 for the Bradley Transportation Line, a division of the U.S. Steel Corporation. When she was launched, the Bradley became the largest ship working in the Great Lakes.Monday, November 17 1958. At 6:30 p.m., after unloading her cargo of limestone at Buffington, Indiana, the 31 year old vessel headed north for her home port at Rogers City, Michigan on the last leg of her final voyage of the 1958 season. Under the command of Captain Roland Bryan and with a crew of 35, she was underway, carrying 9,000 tons of water ballast, for winter lay-up and much needed hull repairs.Two weeks previous, she had bottomed at Cedarville, Michigan and ruptured some hull plates. Her
hull had been badly damaged but repairs were made and
the ship was considered seaworthy.
Captain Bryan was under orders to "take it easy and
nurse her along." During the winter layup she was to receive a planned $800,000 hull renovation.
All the next day, gale force winds and 25 to 30 foot
seas pounded the Bradley as she approached the northern
limits of Lake Michigan. At 5:15 p.m., off Beaver Island,
the ore carrier was hit simultaneously, fore and aft, by two
gigantic waves. Looking aft, Captain Bryan could see the giant ore carrier was breaking up. Acting quickly, he and the first mate, Elmer Fleming, sounded the general alarm, sent out distress signals and gave orders to abandon ship. It was reported that the stern section sank first and then the fore part of the ship rolled over and sank. The once
proud and gallant ore carrier Carl D. Bradley succumbed
to a violent winter storm and had gone down in 365 feet
of water, 12 miles south of Gull Island and 47 miles north
west of Charlevoix, Michigan.
First mate Elmer Fleming and Watchman Frank
Mayers miraculously found one of the ships life rafts and
climbed aboard. Shortly after daybreak they were spotted
by a Coast Guard helicopter and a few hours later they
were picked up by the USCG cutter Sundew (WAGL-
404). The two men had spent 14 hours on the life raft
battling the frigid temperatures and numbing cold waters.
There were no other survivors.
Charges of negligence were brought against the
The Bradley Transportation Line's offer of a blanket
settlement of $600,000 dollars to the families of the thirty-
three seaman lost was met with lawsuits of over sixteen million dollars. At this point, Global Marine Explorations
The Corps of Engineers, using sonar equipment aboard the survey boat M.S. Williams confirmed that the Bradley was lying in 325 feet of water, 53.25 miles northwest of Boulder Reef in the northern reaches of
Lake Michigan.In the spring of 1960, after positioning the Submarex over the wreck with multiple anchors and using a television camera, they found the ore carrier laying on an even keel right side up on the bottom.Adjustments were made to the anchors to drill alongside a break in the ore carrier hull. The bit used was called a "mill" normally used to get through broken-off drilling equipment in a hole and was so designed to cut through steel. A scrap railroad wheel was put around where the
bit was going to penetrate, to keep the bit from walking
off during the start of the rotary drilling motion. The core
samples were retrieved from inside the drill bit.
They successfully brought up the required steel samples which proved that the ore carrier had been structurally
weakened by damage, age, and metal fatigue.
The litagation surrounding the Bradley disaster was finally resolved with a settlement of $1,250,000 to be divided between the 35 claimants who had originally sued for a total of $16,490,000 dollars.The television camera was one of the first ever to be used for undersea work, and had its own lights, so at that depth, where the water is quite clear, it helped considerably. The wreck was positively identified by taking pictures of the ships name on the stern.After recovering the hull samples from the Bradley, the drill ship did some scientific core drilling for the University of Michigan. On 28 September 1960, she arrived in Charlevoix, Michigan to rig for a drilling job for El Paso Gas of Canada. On 7 October, the Submarex visited Detroit to clear customs and on the following day arrived in Windsor, Ontario for entry into Canada. The next morning the crew began setting up mooring anchors over the drill site. Drilling in 60 feet of water, they drilled to the depth of 1174 feet, set casings to 1160 feet, perforated and broke down the formation with acid to get returns.By the 31st of October, the weather was getting so bad, they had to plug and abandon the hole they had drilled. They sailed for Buffalo and tied up at the Rich Marina for the winter.In the spring of 1961, the Submarex returned to Long Beach, California and again was tied up. Fatigue eventually got to her and after a couple of close calls with
sinking alongside her pier, her hulk was sold in 1966 to
National Metals and Steel Company of Terminal Island.
We are grateful to George R. Schneider for the technical back ground about the Submarex and her crew.
- R. W. Daly PC-1181*************************************************************************************************
THIEVES, PROBITY AMONG
The crew of the M. V. Submarex were a mixed bag of gentlemen
who worked well together for their common welfare.
The M. V. Submarex (ex-PC-804) had a critical need of
a spare governor for its RB-99-DA Hamilton diesel engines. After our Chief engineer had explained his dilemma
to the crew, they purposely tied the Submarex to a pier near where a company was scrapping out some Hamilton powered PC's. One evening, assuming that everyone had gone home, our intrepid Chief Engineer was apprehended by the scrap yard watchman sitting atop a Hamilton engine meticulously removing the governor. He made
the lame excuse that he thought the engine belonged to
The following morning, the crew was awakened by
a scrap yard employee with a acetylene torch starting to
peal off the quarters bulkhead of the Submarex. His lame
excuse was that he thought that the subchaser belonged to
the scrap yard. - George R. Schneider
Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
Patrol Craft Sailors Association
This page created and maintained by Joseph M. Radigan|