ON THE EVENING OF Sunday, October 28, the Bounty’s starboard generator failed once and for all. The water in the engine room was so high that when the ship struck a wave around 6 p.m. and listed to the side, it submerged the starboard engine. The Bounty was now adrift.
Svendsen tried the vessel’s handheld sat phone, but he couldn’t get reception belowdecks. Up above, the wind was screaming with such ferocity that he couldn’t tell if he was talking to an answering machine or Simonin herself. Fearing the worst, he deployed one of the ship’s four emergency position-indicating radio beacons.
The port generator was by now the only thing running, and it, too, would soon be submerged. Faunt and Svendsen helped the ailing Walbridge up to the navigation shack, where, with effort, he was able to use the last of the ship’s electricity to send an email to Simonin via ham radio. At 8:45, she forwarded the message to the Coast Guard; in the hours that followed, McIntosh’s C-130 carried out its vigil circling over the ship.
By 4:30 a.m., rescue-flight crew members throughout northeastern North Carolina were preparing for their 6:30 a.m. takeoff. It soon became clear that they’d have to leave much sooner than that.
Back on the Bounty, the crew was getting ready for a dawn descent into life rafts. They collected their immersion, or “Gumby,” suits and filled drybags with flares, lights, and cell phones. Some added a few personal items—a wallet, a laptop, a pair of glasses, and Faunt’s small teddy bear. They strung food, water, and ditch kits to life preservers and assisted the injured Prokosh into his Gumby suit. At the behest of the C-130 crew, they also put on flotation devices. Crew members recall that no one had been wearing a life jacket, though Faunt says that some people had been clipped into the ship’s safety lines.
The mood was calm and controlled. With help, Walbridge was able to limp around and check everybody’s suits. This was the last time the crew members I spoke to remember seeing him alive.
Then all hell broke loose.
At 4:45 a.m., the C-130 got a panicked radio call from Svendsen: The vessel was capsizing. Fast.