NISSWA — When Bill and Jo Svendsen heard Monday on the “Today Show” that the ship their son John Svendsen was on went down after a powerful storm came through off the east coast near North Carolina, they were frantic.
The Svendsens, who have owned Bill and Jo’s Gift Shop in Nisswa for the past 52 years, used their east coast connections and between 1 and 2 p.m. Monday they were given the great news that he was rescued. Their son called them to say that he was on a lot of pain medication and that “everything that happened is healable.” Jo Svendsen said John had broken his hand and ribs and had bumps on his head.
John Svendsen, 41, and a Brainerd High School graduate, was a first mate aboard the HMS Bounty with 15 other crew members, who were forced to jump the replica 18th-century sailing vessel. The ship, which was made famous in Hollywood adventure films, rolled over in 18-foot waves. The Coast Guard rescued 14 members by helicopter Monday. Crew member, Claudene Christian, died and the search continued for the HMS Bounty captain.
Jo Svendsen said that John, her oldest son, has been on the ship for three years. She said all she knew was that the Bounty was on its way back for the winter. She said her son didn’t have a lot of information on the rescue itself.
Svendsen said her son has always been adventurous. She said when he was 2 or 3 he’d walk across the top of the swing set.
Bill Svendsen said, “He’s been a wanderer since he was 16.”
Svendsen said before John become the first mate of the Bounty, he was a deep sea diver in Hawaii for a few years and then he worked as a deep sea diver for the Nature Conservancy near the Northern Line Islands by the equator for a few years.
“After that he decided that he wanted to train to go to work on a tall ship,” said Svendsen of her son.
The Svendsens said they talk to their son a lot on the telephone, but haven’t seen him for three years.
When the Bounty set sail last week, the captain, Robin Walbridge believed he could navigate the ship around the storm. After two days in rough seas, he realized his journey would be far more difficult.
“I think we are going to be into this for several days,” Robin Walbridge said in a message posted Sunday on the vessel’s Facebook site, which reads like a ship’s log of its activities. “We are just going to keep trying to go fast.”
By Monday morning, the vessel had started taking on water, its engines failed and the crew of the stately craft had to abandon ship as it went down in the immense waves. By the time the first rescue helicopter arrived, all that was visible of the ship was a strobe light atop the mighty vessel’s submerged masts. The roiling Atlantic Ocean had claimed the rest.
The final hours of the HMS Bounty, as it was officially named, were as dramatic as the movies she starred in.
The ship was originally built for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty” starring Marlon Brando, and it was featured in several other films over the years, including one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
The vessel left Connecticut on Thursday with a crew of 11 men and five women, ranging in age from 20 to 66. Everyone aboard knew the journey could be treacherous.
“This will be a tough voyage for Bounty,” read a posting on the ship’s Facebook page that showed a map of its coordinates and satellite images of the storm. Photos showed the majestic vessel plying deep blue waters and the crew working in the rigging or keeping watch on the wood-planked deck.
As Sandy’s massive size became more apparent, a post on Saturday tried to soothe any worried supporters: “Rest assured that the Bounty is safe and in very capable hands. Bounty’s current voyage is a calculated decision ... NOT AT ALL ... irresponsible or with a lack of foresight as some have suggested. The fact of the matter is ... A SHIP IS SAFER AT SEA THAN IN PORT!”
But as the storm gathered strength, the Facebook posts grew grimmer. By midmorning Monday, the last update was short and ominous: “Please bear with us ... There are so many conflicting stories going on now. We are waiting for some confirmation.”
Tracie Simonin, director of the HMS Bounty Organization, said the ship tried to stay clear of Sandy’s power.
“It was something that we and the captain of the ship were aware of,” Simonin said.
Coast Guard video of the rescue showed crew members being loaded one by one into a basket before the basket was hoisted into the helicopter.
When they returned to the mainland, some were wrapped in blankets, still wearing the blazing red survival suits they put on to stay warm in the chilly waters.
The survivors received medical attention and were to be interviewed for a Coast Guard investigation. Gary Farber was watching crewman Doug Faunt’s house while his friend sailed. He hasn’t heard from Faunt directly, but made sure he relayed Faunt’s Facebook postings he made as the ship went down, including “The ship sank beneath us, but we swam free and mostly got into two rafts.”
“Doug is a jack-of-all-trades, but I am surprised he was able to get his cellphone and send messages as the ship went down,” Farber said by telephone of his friend.
(This story contains information from The Associated Press.)