Famed Ship Sinks off North Carolina; Two Crew Missing


The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 of 16 crew members from the HMS Bounty off the North Carolina Coast Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. The ship was used in 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty” sinks off North Carolina coast.

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By Mark Morgenstein, CNN

(CNN) — Three people washed off their crippled ship and engulfed by Atlantic seas roiled by Hurricane Sandy scrambled for help on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

But only one made to safety.

When crew members of the famed HMS Bounty realized their lives were in danger off North Carolina’s Outer Banks in the dark morning hours, they made a short journey they hoped they’d never have to take — to two waiting life rafts.

But only 13 of the 16 people aboard got off the ship safely, initially, and only one of the three washed overboard made it into a raft, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Robert Parker told CNN.

The two missing crew members face “extraordinary conditions” in the frenzied sea where rescue efforts intensified, Parker said.

The survival drama involving the sailing ship and its stranded crew played out 90 miles off the Atlantic Coast churned by Sandy’s fury.

CNN meteorologists say the water temperature varies greatly in that part of the ocean because of the jet stream. So the water could be anywhere from 50 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on where the missing men are located.

All of the HMS Bounty’s missing crew members were wearing orange survival suits with strobe lights designed to keep them afloat, warm, and easy to find.

“But in these conditions, it’s very problematic,” Parker said, adding that a timely deployment of search-and-rescue aircraft and ships gives the missing a chance.

A C-130 aircraft and a helicopter have been monitoring the area around the shipwreck of the Bounty, a three-masted ship that appeared in classic adventure films.

Two Coast Guard cutters were en route to the scene to help with search-and-rescue, with one expected to arrive later on Monday and the other expected on Tuesday, Parker said.

Coast Guard helicopters plucked 14 people out of two lifeboats around 6:30 a.m., Petty Officer Brandyn Hill said. The boats were designed to hold 25 people, and had canopies for shelter against pelting rain and winds.

All of those rescued arrived at the Coast Guard air station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and were in good health, Parker said. Initial reports said 17 crew members were aboard but the Coast Guard later corrected that number.

The Coast Guard said it has “diminished search-and-rescue capabilities” as Category 1 Hurricane Sandy batters the U.S. East Coast. More sea rescues prompted by Sandy were reported in Delaware Bay.

The Coast Guard received an emergency call from the ship’s owner Sunday after the 80-foot vessel lost power and started taking on water, the Coast Guard said.

Rescuers picked up an emergency locator beacon and an HC-130 aircraft was dispatched, where the plane made contact with the crew.

The Bounty departed New London, Connecticut, for St. Petersburg, Florida, on October 25, according to the ship’s Facebook page.

Facebook postings bearing that date say things such as “I’m sure that Hurricane Sandy will be a major consideration when Bounty leaves for St. Petersburg later today,” and “Bounty will be sailing East out to sea before heading South to avoid the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.”

The ship was headed for a public display in St. Petersburg on November 10 and 11. The St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Vistors Bureau is promoting “The HMS Bounty Returns To The Pier” on its website.

While following the ship’s Facebook timeline, you can read a mixture of trepidation and attempts at soothing fears.

On Saturday, this post appeared: “Bounty’s current voyage is a calculated decision… NOT AT ALL… irresponsible or with a lack of foresight as some have suggested. The fact of the matter is… A SHIP IS SAFER AT SEA THAN IN PORT!”

No one responded to the contact email or phone number listed on the ship’s website and Facebook account.

The Bounty was used in the making of 1962’s “Mutiny on the Bounty,” starring Marlon Brando, as well as “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” according to the ship’s Facebook page.

The ship was once owned by famed America’s Cup winner and CNN founder Ted Turner. He acquired the Bounty in 1986, when he purchased the rights to the MGM film library for Turner Broadcasting.

Sandy is evoking memories of the “nor’easter” that struck off New England in 1991 and inspired the best-selling book and movie “The Perfect Storm.”

Ray Leonard, who survived that storm on his sailboat before the Coast Guard rescued him, said being besieged by high winds and waves can be exhausting, but sometimes sailors just have to deal with that physical discomfort.

“You don’t really have time to think about much outside, because there’s always about six jobs that need doing,” Leonard said Monday.

Leonard said he never felt terribly vulnerable in ’91. However, he said, Hurricane Sandy’s immensity poses more of a quandary for sailors.

“The one I was in was different, because you could do something. In Sandy, you can’t do much,” Leonard said.

CNN’s Belle Reynoso, Thom Patterson, Meridith Edwards, Mike Ahlers, Sean Morris and George Howell contributed to this report.

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