Requiem For HMS Bounty

5 Nov

Lots of HMS Bounty tragedy follow-up for you.

Let's start with National Geographic, which has some spectacular (and now poignant) footage of the doomed HMS Bounty's first voyage, as she sailed off to star in the Hollywood version of "Mutiny On The Bounty."

Next, the Coast Guard blog has a detailed and gripping account of the rescue. Here's a taste, but you'll want to

read the whole thing:

It didn’t take long before they spotted a survivor in the water, adrift and alone. The survivor was wearing an insulated suit and co-pilot Lt. Jane Pena spotted the strobe lights attached to it. Before they could hoist the sailor to the safety of the helicopter’s cabin, the aircrew had to overcome the challenge of safely deploying their swimmer and rescue basket amidst Sandy’s fury.

“The biggest challenge was the wind and the waves,” recalled Petty Officer 3rd Class Mike Lufkin. “During the recovery of the survivors from the liferaft, we tried adding weight bags in the basket to make it more manageable in the wind, but once the basket hit the water, it sunk.”

After trying a few different methods their teamwork persevered and soon Petty Officer 2nd Class Randy Haba, the crew’s rescue swimmer, was pulling people out of the liferaft and bringing them safely aboard the Jayhawk helicopter. Pena recalls looking out at this point and seeing another strobe in the distance. It was the sunken ship, with only its three masts sticking out.

With the crew of the CG6012 focused on getting the survivors out of one liferaft, rescue helicopter CG6031 arrived on scene ready to rescue survivors from the second liferaft. Pilot Lt. Cmdr. Steve Bonn is no stranger to harrowing rescues. He flew in some of the toughest conditions Mother Nature can conjure as a rescue pilot in Alaska. But despite his experience, he was still stunned as he witnessed 30-foot waves literally breaking over the top of the liferafts when he arrived on scene.

Bonn didn’t take time to dwell on the sheer enormity of the seas. CG6031 had an hour to conduct the rescue so they could make it back to their airbase without running out of fuel. He piloted the helicopter above the second liferaft, about a mile way from the first. Inside, the survivors were huddled together, cold and weary.

Finally, via the Old Salt blog, which has been all over this story, comes a moving eulogy to HMS Bounty, written by Robin Beth Schaer, who sailed on the ship at a difficult time in her life. 

Here's the conclusion. But again, much better to read the whole thing:

I want to look away from the broken ship with her masts snapped and hull submerged. I want to blur the crew lifted by helicopters from twenty foot seas. I want to veer from the Captain, washed overboard, and drifting alone in rough waters. I say the truth is unfathomable and the phrase snags in my throat, a trope already taken from the sea. I catch myself saying fathom again: a word that once meant embrace, and then the length from arm to arm of rope or water, and now means understanding. Bounty is on the sea floor and her Captain lost (my ship, my Captain gone); I don’t want to hold, or measure the depth, or understand this loss.

I was never meant to stay aboard the ship forever; I knew this. Bounty carried me from one place to another, and I let myself be taken. I lost myself in the wind and the canvas, and the open ocean. Inside her hull was a home; between the crew was a family. Now the ship is wrecked, but we are not stranded. To fathom is truly what the voyage taught: to embrace, measure, and understand the fragility and strength in this blue world and our dependence on each other within it. I learned to love a ship and then I stepped ashore willing to risk my heart.

This ship truly did have a life. A life that is being mourned, along with the loss of two sailors. 

AND ONE MORE UPDATE: This morning the Bounty survivors told their story on ABC News' Good Morning America. Here's a key segment (but, as usual, best to READ THE WHOLE THING!):

 

For first mate John Svendsen the call to abandon ship was one of the toughest he'd ever made.

"We determined a safe time when we knew the ship would still be stable and we could get everyone on deck and change our focus from saving the ship to saving every life," said Svendsen, who credits Capt.Wallbridge's endless drills and preparation for the 14 lives that were saved.

But the ship's leadership lost all control once a giant wave broadsided the ship, knocking some of the crew — already in their survival suits — into the roiling sea.

"It was [like a] washing machine in an earthquake … while going down a giant slide," crewmember Laura Groves told ABC News.

The crew says their unexpected adventure began on October 25, as the ship set sail from Connecticut.Captain Wallbridge wrote on Facebook that with Hurricane Sandy on the move, "a ship is safer at sea than in port." But three days into the voyage, the crew found themselves in the middle of the ferocious storm, with heaving waves three stories high.

"The weather was so bad and we had so little control," said Douglas Faunt.

"It took every ounce of my strength to focus through to survive," said first mate Svendsen.

Winds were tearing at the crew at 70 mph, and by the fourth day the ship, which was constructed for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty" and later featured in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," had been taking on water for 24 hours.

Here's the video:

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