San Francisco, California
October 29, 2012
228 days until Arctic Circle journey
I would like to devote today’s post to HMS Bounty, lost at sea today off the North Carolina coastline when it encountered hurricane Sandy en route from Connecticut to Florida. As of the time of this post, 14 of sixteen crew members have been rescued by the coast guard, and two are still missing.
UPDATE: Another survivor was found, unresponsive. Bounty’s Captain is still missing. Please send your hopes/prayers/thoughts for his safe rescue.
HMS Bounty was built in 1960 at at Smith and Ruhland Shipyard in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, as a replica of the original HMS Armed Vessel Bounty (originally the coal ship Bethia, built in 1787) commanded by Lieutenant William Bligh. Fletcher Christian, Bligh’s sailing master, led a mutiny on board, taking control of the ship on April 28, 1789. Bligh and those loyal to him were cast off in the ship’s boat and after 47 days and more than 3,500 nautical miles, made it to the Dutch port, Coupang. The mutineers, in fear of being apprehended by the Royal Navy, dropped several men in Tahiti, and then, (according to a crewman’s diary) sailed without warning with several Tahitian women and men still on board, to Pitcairn Island, where they burned Bounty to erase any trace of her.
The replica ship, HMS Bounty, was originally built for the movie Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, and Richard Harris. It was built from the original Royal Navy plans, but sized up 30% to hold camera equipment and the movie crew, in addition to the regular crew. After filming, and a tour with MGM, Bounty became a tourist attraction in St. Petersburg, Florida until 1986. She was then purchased by Ted Turner and used to film Treasure Island, starring Charleton Heston, donated, and finally purchased in 2001 by HMS Bounty Organization, and was refitted and refurbished for a voyage around the world. Since then she has been used to teach square rigged sailing and seamanship.
It is difficult to describe what the loss of this vessel means. She was a physical, real, connection to our not-so-distant history, and to understanding innovations and knowledge of craftsmanship that are still very much at the heart of everything we engineer. We build vehicles to take us places, to explore, to look at a horizon and then to find out what’s beyond it. A ship is literally a traveling reflection of our attitude toward the environment and ourselves. If we build ourselves as individuals and as a community with foresight and attention, as works of art that are also shelter and home, we can last a long time, contained by something we are proud of. The forces that power us- wind and time- will also eventually sink us, but while we are alive and sailing, it should be in our best form.