Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Sinking of the HMS Bounty

I've been trying to absorb the heartbreaking tragedy of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation wrought by fire, wind, and water.  The scale of misery and loss is hard to comprehend.

What is uplifting are the stories of the dedicated emergency responders who risked their lives to help others.

What is amazing is the resilience of everyday people who will pick up the pieces and move forward with their lives.

I take hope in their resilience because their capacity for endurance has been demonstrated in the aftermath of too many recent tragedies in our country.  People come together to help each other get through the unthinkable.  And they do.

An early casualty from the super storm was the HMS Bounty.

Sinking of the HMS Bounty

A ship is a just a thing.
Its loss does not match the worth of a single life that has been taken.
More tragic is the loss of the Bounty's crew member Claudene Christian,
and the possible loss of its captain Robin Walbridge.

But a ship of sails is a thing of beauty,
and its loss is a tragedy to seafaring hearts.

HMS Bounty

Ships of all ilk often chose to ride out dangerous storms at sea.
At anchor, they can be badly battered or destroyed.
That was the calculation the Bounty's captain made,
but this time the ocean won.

The Bounty lost engine power and began taking on water in strong winds and high seas on Sunday afternoon, October 28th.  The wild, chaotic seas entered the Bounty too quickly to permit pumps to be dropped by helicopter to rescue it.

Captain Robin Walbridge gave the order to abandon ship.
At 4:00 a.m. on the 29th,
the crew launched two life rafts into the tulmultuous, predawn waters.
With the ship sinking beneath them, the sailors swam for the rafts and boarded them.
Some, including Claudene Christian and Robin Walbridge didn't.
(as reported in on October 29, 2012)

The HMS Bounty sank early on the morning of October 29, 2012 about 90 miles SE of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The first of two U.S. Coast Guard helicopters dispatched from Elizabeth City plucked a survivor from the raging waters and pulled up four others from one of the rafts.

Thirty minutes later a second helicopter arrived to haul survivors from the second raft.  A rescue swimmer dropped into the waves to help the sailors enter the rescue basket that would winch them to safety.

The rescue swimmer Dan Todd swam up to the second raft in rough seas and said,
"Hey, I'm Dan and I hear you guys need a ride."
(as reported in the, on October 30, 2012)
Typical American serviceman aplomb think I.  
Just the sort I'd want to snatch me from hellish waters.

Guzzling fuel and running low, the second helicopter had to abandon its search for the missing captain and sailor.

A third U.S. Coast Guard helicopter searched the waters and plucked the unresponsive Claudene Christian from the seas.
By now the Bounty struggled abeam.
Darkness forced the abandonment of the air search for Robin Walbridge,
but U.S. Coast Guard cutters continued hunting throughout the night.

These U.S. Coast Guard crews are perfect example of the courageous members of our forces who serve our country at home and around the world every day.

U.S. Coast Guard video of the Rescue of the HMS Bounty Crew (11 min., 31sec./2012),_Searches_for_2_from_HMS_Bounty.ogv

Details continue to emerge, some conflicting; but time will sort out those details.

This HMS Bounty was a replica of the fabled first HMS Bounty.
The tale of the Mutiny on the Bounty has echoed through time for over two hundred years,
since the crew on the first Bounty mutinied in Tahiti in 1789.

The First HMS Bounty

This HMS Bounty was constructed in 1960-1961 for the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando.  For fifty years this daughter of the British transport Bounty has sailed the waters of the world preserving the memories of tall ships on the seas.  It has taken part in many other movies and documentaries and has served as a living lesson in maritime history.

In an ironic twist of fate, as reported in, Claudene Christian, the sailor who died when the replica of the original bounty sank, said on her Facebook account that she was descended from Fletcher Christian.  Marlon Brando played the lead mutineer in the mutiny against Captain William Bligh in the 1962 movie.

For some, this HMS Bounty will be forever associated with Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow; but if this is what keeps alive the beauty of tall ships, so be it.

You Tube Video:  Where's Johnny Depp? ( 41 seconds/2010)

This HMS Bounty died in American waters, but it was born in Canadian.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer commissioned the replica from Smith and Ruhland shipwrights in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

She was christened on August 28, 1961 with 10,000 square feet of wind-capturing sail.
She died on October 29, 2012 in stormy seas.
Perhaps she can be salvaged to sail once again.

As I mourn her loss,
I think of her unnamed sailor rescued from North Carolina waters in an orange neoprene survival suit.
I think of the sailor who died alone in the surging waves,
and her captain who met an unknown fate.
What were they thinking?

I think of the families and their loss,
and I remember a song "Atlantic Blue" that may personify such heartache.

You Tube video:  Atlantic Blue, The Once & Atlantic String Quartet
 (3 min. 22 sec./2012)

One story, among thousands, of the heartbreaking tragedy of Hurricane Sandy.
One story, among countless others, of ships and lives lost at sea.


You Tube

Wikimedia Commons


  1. A moving account - and tribute - to the Bounty. Thanks for letting me know it's here!

  2. Thanks Ken! The Bounty going down was a knife to my heart. And thanks for becoming a follower of my blog. So far, besides you, I have Ron, Jim, Sophie, and me (by accident) because I didn't know what I was doing! I'm having lots of fun blogging, and now finally, I have time. Enough time that I can occasionally sit down and read for an hour.

  3. Louise, thanks so much for putting this into perspective for me. This is a wonderful account of the fate of a ship and it's crew. Well done!

    1. Thanks Jim! Ken inspired this. The wreck of the Bounty hit me hard. This is my first attempt ever to write about a shipwreck. I am working on two books containing a tragic shipwreck off Newfoundland during World War II.

  4. And Claudine Christian was a distant descendant of mutineer Fletcher Christian. How heart breaking's hard to comprehend what she was thinking and enduring as she met her fate. I remember the 1962 movie making in Nova Scotia as if it were yesterday. Thanks for this account.

    1. You're right Ron! I left that detail out in the name of brevity; but now I just have to edit it in in the name of irony. Thanks for looking at my post.

  5. What a very touching story - I had not heard it.

    When my husband and I went to London three years ago, we stayed in a house that once belonged to Captain Bligh. The current owners run it as a B&B - it's a listed building and retains many of the original architectural features. Staying there was like sleeping in history.


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.