Sunday, December 29, 2013

BEST OF 2013: HMS Bounty Hearing: The Last Hours of The Bounty

In hearings today Daniel Cleveland - Third mate of the Bounty testified, as did Laura Groves - Boatswain of Bounty
Much of the questioning was about the condition of the boat.  When the Bounty was in dry dock in Boothbay, Maine there was rot found in some of the frame of the boat.  After the dry dock period a watch for any leaks showed the bilge area to be exceptionally dry.  There were questions about ships procedures and emergency drills which the Bounty held on a very regular basis.  When questioned about the decision to sail south rather than ride it out at the dock Daniel Cleveland stated he did not thing that the crew would be safer at the dock as the storm surge was great enough to have put the boat onto the dock.

The Last Hours of the HMS Bounty

Thursday 25th…Bounty sails from New London, Ct. after determining ,as with most large vessels, it is better to weather a storm at sea.  The plan was to run hard South and East and try to cut back in toward the west once there was no chance of the storm also turning west and driving them into the land.
Things were calm the weather was actually quite nice.  Time was spent battening down anything that could break loose when  they did get into some heavy seas.

Friday 26th…Started off calm.  Continued storm preparations.

Saturday 27th … The seas start running 8-12 feet and the wind starts to increase.  One of the two onboard generators starts to give problems, smoking and occasionally loosing power.

Sunday 28th …The storm continues to intensify.  Lifelines are rigged both below deck and on deck.  There have been no injuries however there has been some seasickness.  Fatigue becomes an issue as the day wares on.
Early on the seas reach 30’ with winds of 90 knots.  The storm sail ripped out and had to be replaced be another storm sail, however, it was impossible to walk on deck due to the wind.  The work had to be accomplished on their hands and knees.
Water starts coming in through a seem in the engine room.  The bilge pumps are having a hard tome keeping up.
Around 1600 Captain Robin Walbridge ordered them to heave too due to the fact that they are loosing the battle with the water coming into the bilges of the boat.  From this point on crew was kept off the deck as much as possible for their safety.  Water was continuing to come into the engine room.
At midnight they completely lost power for a short time.  Crew tried to use an emergency gas powered pump but were unable to keep it running.  The water continued to rise and the crew had to abandon the engine room,.  The crew continued preparations for the possibility they would have to abandon ship.  Emergency supplies flotation deveses and survival suits were prepared.
At some point Captain Robin Walbridge fell and injured his back.  During this tome Captain Robin and other crew were on the radio and phones to the Coast Guard to try to get generators delivered and to report their condition to rescuers and to the boat owners.  It soon became apparent that the generators could not be delivered in time to save the ship it was time to give as much of the crew time to rest with a few continuing to work the gas powered pump but to no avail.
Abandon ship… with survival suits on the crew is brought on deck and mad their way to the stern on their hands and knees where the life rafts were located.  At this point the bow went under water and the ship pitched over 90 degrees throwing the crew into the sea.  The crew grabbed whatever they could and tried to swim away from the boat.  The ship continued to pitch over sending the masts and spars into the waters where the crew were desperately trying to swim away from the ship.  Six of the crew grabbed a large grate.  One of the life rafts was spotted but the were unable to catch up to it.  They did eventually find a life raft that had not been inflated and were able to inflate it.  With their survival suits on they were unable to grab the ropes and had to grab onto the raft with their teeth.  After a while they were able to get the crew into the raft.  All this in the dark around 4AM.
Once in the raft they were in good spirits but not out of the woods.  The waves were so strong that they were threatening to collapse the life raft.  Something before dawn a large wave totally flipped the raft.  Fortunately the Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter arrived and they all got back into the water and were lifted to safety.
The last time that Captain Robin and  Claudene Christian were seen was on deck before the ship pitched over.

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