Entries in HMS Bounty (2)


Crew of Ship Sunk During Hurricane Sandy Speaks of Lost Shipmates

U.S. Coast Guard(NEW YORK) -- Crew members from the HMS Bounty, who were rescued as the tall ship sank off the coast of North Carolina last week, are speaking for the first time about their experience as they weathered Hurricane Sandy and the loss of two crew mates.

The dramatic sinking of the Bounty and harrowing rescue of its crew last Monday created some of the most enduring images during the hurricane.  In an ABC News exclusive, the ship's 14 surviving crew members opened up about their rescue after they tried to weather the storm.

They described the chaos as they abandoned ship and the Bounty was slammed by a giant wave.  The 14 survivors, still together a week after the disaster, are still chiefly concerned with honoring those who didn't make it -- their captain, Robin Wallbridge, and deckhand Claudine Christian.

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 Oct. 25, as the ship set sail from Connecticut.  Capt. 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 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.

Crew members on the Bounty had trained for rough weather countless times, they said.

"We been through two other hurricanes," Daniel Cleveland said.  "We were literally launching the life rafts, and she went over."

The ship was thrown on its side, tossing crew members into the waves.  They wore red survival suits designed to help them float.

"At that moment I couldn't be sure who the red suits were around me," Cleveland said.

Hours after being thrown into the water and clambering into the life rafts, they began to hear the beating rotors of Coast Guard helicopters.  But they were far from safe, with the weather uncertain and one of the most daring Coast Guard rescues in memory underway.

"When the helicopters showed up, I think everyone in the life raft just started hooting and hollering," Cleveland said.

Suddenly, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer launched himself from a chopper and swam toward them -- popping his head into their raft and heaving himself in.

"I was immediately filled with a huge sense of relief, and he asked, 'Who's ready to get out of here?'  And we were all about to say 'Yeah,' and then the raft just gets crushed with this wave and knocks him pretty good," said Cleveland.

Svendsen was the only survivor not in a raft.  He swam to a floating beacon, which had been devised by Capt. Wallbridge.

"So I give my life to Robin, and to his ingenuity, to his leadership, that I'm here today," Svendsen said.

Those who were pulled out alive had no idea who else had survived.

"When we got up there everybody cheered each time we saw a new face come into that helicopter," Joshua Scornavacchi said.

But not everyone made it home.  Claudine Christian was one of the Bounty's newest crew members, and was already part of the ship's family.

"She was having the most fun ever on the best ride ever.  She was so happy," Faunt said.

Christian's last text to her mother read, "If I do go down with the ship & the worst happens… just know that I am truly genuinely happy!!"

The Coast Guard found her body hours later, and couldn't revive her.  The body of Capt. Wallbridge has not been recovered.  

For the 14 who made it, survival is bittersweet.

"[I'm] going to miss them the rest of my life," said Faunt, wiping away tears.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Superstorm Sandy Ship Rescue Fills Chopper with Cheers

U.S. Coast Guard(ELIZABETH CITY, N.C.) -- Cheers filled a Coast Guard rescue helicopter Monday each time its crew plucked sailors from the churning sea roiled up by Hurricane Sandy, but one sailor from the stricken tall ship HMS Bounty was in critical condition -- and Coast Guard ships and planes are still searching for one more crew member.

Fourteen people were rescued early Monday morning from the HMS Bounty. A 15th person was pulled from the Atlantic hours later, but was unresponsive. That person, identified as Claudene Christian, was taken to Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, N.C.

"She is here. Right now she is in critical condition," hospital spokesman Patrick Detwiler said.

Crews are still looking for Robin Walbridge, 63. The Coast Guard identified Walbridge as the ship's captain.

Christian and Walbridge were washed into the sea when the three-masted replica of the historic ship began taking on water. The crew was abandoning ship during the night when the hurricane flung them into the sea.

The Bounty, 180-foot replica of the ship featured in the film Mutiny on the Bounty, was 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., when the owner called saying she'd lost contact with the crew Sunday night.

A C130 plane spotted the wreckage Monday morning and Coast Guard Lt. Jane Peña co-piloted one of two rescue choppers to the site. One sailor was spotted adrift by himself wearing an insulated suit called a Gumby suit. Pena said he was spotted by the strobe lights attached to the suit.

The C130 crew directed the helicopter to a covered liferaft that had seven survivors aboard. Video of the rescue shows a Coast Guard swimmer being lowered into the water and attaching the sailors to the hoist line and raising them into the helicopter one at a time.

Peña said her rescue team were able to get an additional four survivors on board before they began to run out of fuel and had to head to head back to shore.

A second chopper picked up the remaining sailors.

The survivors were taken to Air Station Elizabeth City on the North Carolina coast.

The Bounty 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, according to the director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin. But the ship got caught in Sandy's fury and began taking on water. The cold water survival suits, also called Gumby suits, staved off hypothermia for the shipwrecked sailors.

Initial reports said there were 17 people on the Bounty, but the manifest indicated the ship only had 16 people aboard.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio