McDonald steered the ship through blinding rain, fog, mist,
and rough seas and slowed the engines to half speed around
5:45 a.m., when he realized his vessel was nearing the Apostle
Islands. About 15 minutes later, still running blind, the
Sevona ran hard aground on Sand Island
. The damage included a gaping hole in the bow and a split
in the center of the hull.
Kate Spencer described the events in the Ashland Daily Press:
think or talk of the wreck without shudder following shudder.
At about 6:00 came the terrible crash which broke the vessel
in two. We got into the lifeboats at that time, but the captain
and the other men could not come
owing to the break. He hailed us through the megaphone
"Hang on as long as you can." We did so but the sea was pounding
us so hard that Chief Engineer Phillipi finally directed us
out of the small boat and into the large vessel again, all
congregating into the dining room which was still intact.
The big boat was pounding and tossing. Now a piece of the
deck would go and then a portion of the dining room. During
all this time the men could not get to us.
They blew the ship's
whistle and launched signal rockets, but there was no life-saving
station or vessel nearby to help. The captain and six men
were stranded on the forward part of the ship with no lifeboats,
so they began building a raft from wooden
and doors. By 11 a.m. the aft section was breaking up, so the crew launched the two
aft lifeboats. One carried 11 of the crew members, while the
other carried six. Spencer continues her account.
seemed to be breaking up at once, and by order of the Chief
Engineer we took to the small boat again. One by one we piled
into the boat leaving six men behind us. I never heard such
a heart rending cry as came from those six. "For God's sake,
don't leave us!" they cried. So two of our men got out and
helped the six pull the
boat over to the
side and launch it. Then we both set out. It was a terrible
fight to keep the small boat afloat!