Byline: Associated Press
ELIZABETH CITY, North Carolina (AP) — Coast Guard personnel rescued 14 members of the crew aboard a three-masted tall ship that sank off the North Carolina coast during Hurricane Sandy. However, one crewmember died, and the ship’s captain was still missing at press time.
HMS Bounty left Connecticut Oct. 25 en route to Florida and was trying to make it around the storm. However, the 180-foot replica of the original English ship HMS Bounty that was commissioned in 1787 was caught in Hurricane Sandy’s path.
On Oct. 29, the vessel had started taking on water, its engines failed and all except two of the crew abandoned ship in two life rafts as the vessel went down shortly before dawn in 18-foot waves.
The 14 crewmembers were hoisted into a Coast Guard helicopter from Bounty’s two life rafts shortly after the ship went down in the hurricane-churned waters, about 90 miles off Cape Hatteras. They were reported to be in good condition.
One of the remaining crewmembers, Claudene Christian, 42, was found hours later, unresponsive and floating in the water. Christian was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert said. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Robert Parker, operational commander for the Atlantic Area, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the ship had taken on about 10 feet of water when the crew abandoned it.
The Coast Guard, for 90 hours, searched for the remaining crewmember, Robin Walbridge of St. Petersburg, Fla. — the ship’s 63-year-old captain — using ships, helicopters and large planes before suspending its efforts around 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1, Lt. Michael Paterson said.
“Suspending a search and rescue case is one of the hardest decisions we have to make,” said Capt. Doug Cameron, chief of incident response for the Coast Guard’s Fifth District.
The Coast Guard said that it has ordered a formal investigation into the loss of HMS Bounty.
Rear Adm. Steven Ratti said Nov. 2 that the review will focus on what caused the sinking.
The Coast Guard said that the investigation, which is expected to take several months, will consider whether any failure of equipment or personnel contributed to the crewmember’s death.
The modern HMS Bounty 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 ship’s connection to its namesake went back to the original English ship, HMS Bounty, whose crew famously took over the ship from its commander, Lt. William Bligh, in April 1789.
While looking for a safe haven, the mutineers rediscovered Pitcairn Island, which had been “misplaced” on Royal Navy charts.
To prevent the ship’s detection and anyone possibly escaping, they stripped Bounty of all that could be floated ashore before destroying it by setting the vessel on fire.
Claudene Christian said she was the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate and acting lieutenant who led the mutiny aboard Bounty.