UPDATE: Claudene Christian’s body was recovered.
As the East Coast battens down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, the Category 1 hurricane may have claimed more victims. The captain and one crewmember from the tall ship Bounty, a replica of the original HMS Bounty built in 1960 for the Marlon Brando film Mutiny on the Bounty, are missing after the crew abandoned ship early this morning off North Carolina’s Outer Banks, just 160 miles from the center of Sandy. The remaining 14 crewmembers were rescued by USCG helos this morning.
Last night Captain Robin Walbridge called the owners of the ship to report the ship had lost power and the crew were unable to keep up with the inflow of water. At 4:30 a.m., he ordered the crew to abandon ship to two liferafts and activated the ship’s EPIRB. As Bounty was sinking in 40-knot winds and 18-ft seas, three crewmembers reportedly didn’t make it into the rafts. One managed to swim to a raft, while the other two — Capt. Walbridge and newest crewmember Claudene Christian (reported to be a direct descendant of Fletcher Christian) — were swept away. Both are wearing survival suits, and the Coast Guard is continuing to search today. Bounty has since sunk.
Though the 180-ft, three-masted square-rigger (technically a full-rigged ship) was destined to be a film set, she was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, to the original HMS Bounty‘s drawings — her length was doubled and tonnage increased — using traditional methods. She was also featured in two Pirates of the Caribbean films: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Currently owned by HMS Bounty Organization LLC, the ship underwent a $3 million refit in ’07, and had just been in drydock for maintenance. Bounty left New London, Connecticut, on October 25 bound for her winter home in St. Petersburg, Florida.