A Legendary Ship's Final Hours Battling Sandy

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He was exhausted, the result of being thrown back and forth in the engine room. His body was covered with bruises, his leg hurt, he had injured his index finger and he could hardly breathe. Nevertheless, he managed to keep at least one generator running. But the water was rising underneath the floorboards. Barksdale noticed that the power from the generator was fluctuating, and that the bilge pumps, which are supposed to pump water out of the ship, seemed to be clogged. They weren't pumping quickly enough, and the water level kept rising. Taking on Water

At 8 p.m. on Sunday, the eye of the storm was 450 kilometers southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The region is nicknamed the "graveyard of the Atlantic," because warm and cold currents come together there and make the ocean unpredictable, even in milder weather. The wind was still whipping across the water at 120 kilometers per hour.

The Coast Guard in Elizabeth City received an emergency distress call at 9 p.m. The Bounty was located about 170 kilometers southeast of Cape Hatteras. It was taking on water and had begun to list.

As soon as he received the news, pilot Mike Myers switched off the TV in his room at the airport hotel in Raleigh. It was the moment he and his crew had been waiting for. They prepared themselves to fly into the hurricane.

Myers is a calm and powerful man with a crew cut. He had hoped to be able to remain outside the most dangerous part of the storm, but now that was precisely where a sinking ship was located.

He tried to reassure himself with the thought that the C-130 is a heavy cargo plane, and is more stable than the helicopters he used to use for rescue missions. On the other hand, he thought, what good is a C-130 against a superstorm?

Myers has learned to control his fear. He sent his wife a text message saying: "Looks like we're going to fly into the eye of the storm. I love you." She replied immediately: "I love you too. Take care of yourself."

Myers and his crew calculated the altitude at which they stood the best chance of surviving the flight: 7,000 feet, or 2,134 meters, which would place them in a sort of tunnel between rain and ice, in which they would try to fly as close as possible to the Bounty without being carried off course by turbulence or worse.

The flight was more difficult than anything Myers had ever experienced. The winds tugged at the plane, throwing it back and forth like a tiny model. Some of the men in the cargo hold were vomiting before long.

Time to Abandon Ship

The water was now almost two meters high inside the Bounty. Myers couldn't see the ship through the wall of rain, and the plane's spotlights were only picking up the foam on the waves. He was flying at an altitude of just 300 meters when he found the ship. It was listing 45 degrees to starboard.

Myers circled over the ship, while his team tried to calm down the ship's crew on the radio. They kept trying all night long, talking and vomiting, and every 40 minutes the pilot would climb to several thousand feet, where the air was calmer, to allow the crew to recover.

The ship's crew could only be rescued with helicopters, which are even more vulnerable to the wind than a cargo plane. In one of the radio messages, a member of the Coast Guard team told the crewmembers to put on their survival suits if they hadn't already.

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