HMS BOUNTY SINKS OFF NORTH CAROLINA COAST!
HMS Bounty crew member dies and captain missing in stormy seas
Monster-Storm Sandy causes famous ship used in Hollywood films to sink in immense waves, as crew post updates on Facebook
Associated Press in North Carolina guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 30 October 2012 08.22 EDT
When the Bounty set sail last week, the captain running the ship made famous in Hollywood adventure films believed he could navigate around hurricane Sandy and weather the storm. After two days in rough seas, he realised 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 on 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. One crew member died and Walbridge was still missing.
Most of the sailors were plucked from life rafts shortly after the ship went down, but Claudene Christian is found hours later, unresponsive and floating in the water. She was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital, coastguard David Weydert said.
The rest of the crew was in good condition.
By the time the first rescue helicopter arrived, all that was visible of the replica 18th century sailing vessel was a strobe light atop the ship's submerged masts.
The final hours of HMS Bounty were as dramatic as the movies it starred in.
"When a crew decides it's safer in an inflatable than it is on deck, then you know she's [the ship's] in peril," said Bill Foster, the mayor of St Petersburg, Florida - a frequent winter port for the ship and where it had been expected to arrive in November.
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.
Rochelle Smith, 44, met Christian this summer when they sailed on HMS Bounty in Nova Scotia.
"She loved the Bounty. She absolutely loved it. She was so happy to be on it and doing something that she found that she loved to do," said Smith, a medical transcriptionist who lives in Ontario, Canada.
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, which showed a map of its coordinates and satellite images of the storm. Photos showed the vessel plying deep blue waters and the crew working in the rigging or keeping watch on deck.
As Sandy's 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!"
As the storm gathered strength, the Facebook posts grew grimmer. By mid-morning 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 organisation, 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.
Coastguard video of the rescue showed crew members being loaded one by one into a basket which was then hoisted into a helicopter.
"It's one of the biggest seas I've ever been in. It was huge out there," said coastguard rescue swimmer Randy Haba, who helped pluck four crew members off one of the canopied life rafts and a fifth who was in the water.
A helicopter pilot said the waves appeared to be 30ft (9m) high during the rescue. The US Coast Guard said in a news release that waves in many places topped out around 18ft (5.4m).
The survivors received medical attention and were to be interviewed for a coastguard investigation. Gary Farber was watching crewman Doug Faunt's house while his friend sailed. He hasn't heard from Faunt directly, but relayed his Facebook postings 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.
The mother of another crew member, 20-year-old Anna Sprague, said her daughter had been aboard the Bounty since May.
Mary Ellen Sprague, of Savannah, Georgia, said she had spoken to her daughter twice but didn't know many details.
"She's very upset," Sprague said.
The crew was eager to return to St Petersburg and to calmer waters.
"I know they were very much looking forward to being here," said Carol Everson, general manager of the pier where the vessel docks. "They were very excited about coming down."
The Bounty's captain was from St Petersburg, she added.
Wallbridge learned to sail at the age of 10, according to his biography on the Bounty's website. Prior to the Bounty, he served as first mate on HMS Rose, the Bounty's sister ship.
"The ship was almost like his home," Smithsaid. "That's where he spent most of his time was aboard the ship. He was so full of history and so interesting to talk to. And he knew his sailing stuff."
MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2012........................................................................................................
14 rescued, 2 missing from HMS Bounty off North Carolina coast
By NBC News staff
Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET: Monday, October 29, 2012, for two crew members of the stricken ship HMS Bounty, which sank off the coast of North Carolina, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Earlier Monday, two Coast Guard helicopters rescued 14 people from life rafts after they were forced to abandon ship.
They were flown to Air Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina where they were met by awaiting emergency medical services personnel, the Coast Guard said.
An aircraft was on the scene, searching for the two missing crew members, with a Jayhawk helicopter en route to assist.
"It appears that two crew members didn't make it onto the life rafts," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Michael Patterson told NBC News. The Coast Guard was speaking with the rescued crew members to find out more details.
Advertise | AdChoicesThe ship issued a distress signal late Sunday after taking on water, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a release.
The owner of the 180-foot, three mast ship -- which was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie, "Mutiny on the Bounty" -- lost communication with the crew and alerted the Coast Guard to the situation.
The Coast Guard then received a distress signal from the ship showing its position. It sent out an aircraft to speak with the crew, which reported that the vessel was taking on water and had no propulsion. It was located about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C.
“The 16 people donned cold water survival suits and life jackets before launching in two 25-man lifeboats with canopies,” the Coast Guard said in the statement. It had earlier reported that there were 17 people aboard the ship.
The director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin, said that the tall ship left Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Fla. The crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and tried to go around the storm, she said.
The ship was earlier surrounded by 18-foot seas and 40 mph winds as Hurricane Sandy moves through the area.
Sandy strengthens as it bears down on eastern US
Glimpse into maritime history
The Bounty makes frequent trips around the country, offering a glimpse into maritime history, according to the ship's website, which now appears to be down. It was originally a British transport vessel, and the replica has appeared in several films, including the 2006 movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," with Johnny Depp. Its last stop before its winter hiatus in Galveston, Texas, was to be in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Nov. 10.