It was another early Friday morning for the crew of a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules based out of Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.
Fifty-knot winds roared around the airframe while the crew scoured the dark cauldron of 20-foot seas below for a boat. Rain lashed the plane, reducing visibility to less than a mile. Radar was next to useless and no one had been able to contact the distressed vessel.
The only thing guiding the crew was an unregistered, but active, emergency position-indicating radio beacon, broadcasting a signal approximately 680 miles east from the U.S. and 75 miles north of Bermuda.
“There was no moon, and multiple cloud layers and thunderstorm cells blocked any available light provided by the stars,” said Lt. j.g. Caleb Thorp, the Hercules pilot. “The rain was near continuous, which reflected any light emitted from the aircraft and caused our night vision goggles to be useless. So we secured as many lights on the aircraft as possible to aid the search outside. We could only see straight down where we saw very rough seas.”