It's no secret that storms on the Great Lakes can be deadly. Thousands of ships lay at the bottom of the Great Lakes and thousands more men have lost their lives in storms on the waters.
A man who knows the dangers of the great lakes all too well shared his story with a crowd at MSU on Monday night.
November 1966, it was to be the DD Daniel J. Morrell's last voyage of the season but a storm in Lake Huron had plans to make it this freighter's last voyage ever.@
Dennis Hale, Sole Survivor: “Its there and it will probably always be there and everyday I live it.”
For survivor Dennis Hale, who was working on the ship, the 46 year old memory is fresh.
He recalls he was sleeping when he heard a loud noise.
Hale: “I jumped out of bed and I had under shorts on.”
With no time to get dressed he grabbed only a life jacket.
Hale: “I ran out onto the deck and looked towards the stern and I couldn't see the stern.”
That's because the stern was underwater and the ship was breaking up.
For hours, with bare feet and no pants, Hale struggled to survive.
Hale: “Its just come down to either I'm gonna make it or I'm not. There are times I prayed to live and there are times I prayed to die.”
After 38 hours in the icy water, he was eventually rescued by a coast guard helicopter.
Hale: “I don't know, that question goes through my mind quite often, why me?.”
While Hale has struggled with that question for years, it seems he already knows the answer.
Hale: “I needed to tell the story of the sinking, I had to do that.”
Because of the 29 people who were on board the SS Daniel J. Morrell, he's the sole survivor.
Hale: “Its heartwrenching, I lost a lot of good friends.”
But Hale says he know he'll see them again.
Hale: “Its really still heavy on my heart, I know that when I pass away, they'll be there for me- I'm sure of that,”
But in the meantime, he's keeping their memory alive in hopes others will be inspired to endure.
Because of his ordeal in freezing waters, Hale lost a number of toes and suffered from pain for years.