Sunday, December 29, 2013

BEST OF 2013: HMS Bounty Hearings “Angels On The Wings Of The Storm”

HMS Bounty relaunched at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine just 10 days before she went down.

 HMS Bounty Hearings “Angels On The Wings Of The Storm”
Doug Mills
Maritime Editor
RCN America Network
Feb.21, 2013

The first witness of the day was Drew Salapatek  Bounty Deckhand

HMS Bounty
The morning was spent with the same routine with Mr Salapatek giving a running description of the last four days.  Nothing new was brought out in this session.

Chief Mate John Svendsen who has been with the bounty since 2008.

Mr Svendsen testified that he had voiced his concerns about sailing south to Captain Walbridge.  He had suggested alternate ports that were available to then rather than risk lives and the boat in the teeth of a hurricane.  Captain Walbridge was not open to any other options, stating that the boat was in the best shape it had been in and the storm was only a cat 1.  He was not open to any other plans.
Immediately after this conversation he held the meeting with the full crew where he stated there was a storm to the south but they were going to sail anyway.  He gave anyone who wanted to leave if they wished, however, there was no time to think it through as immediately after the meeting they started preparing to get under way.  They were at sea within ½ hour.
HMS Bounty at Boothbay Harbor, Maine
There was one other fact that came to light today.  In 1997 the Bounty sailed from the Boothbay Shipyard in Maine, headed south, into the teeth of “The Perfect Storm”!  They had to heave too for three days and lost one of the masts in the storm.

The next witness was Commander Mitchell USCG Sector North Carolina, Response Department Head.  Commander Mitchell was in charge if the rescue effort that saved 14 members of the Bounty crew.
It was Sunday Oct. 28 at 8:45 they received the first call from the Bounty, stating that they were taking on water.  This message had come in via satellite email.  It was assessed to be a medium risk to the Bounty.  The Coast Guard immediately tried to locate any other resources in the area military or civilian, none were close.
Due to a lack of ability to establish reliable communications and the severity of the storm the Coast Guard made the decision to launch a C130 to the area to establish reliable communications.  Conditions were at the high end of the aircraft's operating abilities due the high winds.  Once communications were established with the Bounty’s crew it was determined that delivering pumps in those conditions would not be possible.  By this time the ship was taking on water at a rate of two feet per hour!  The crew stated that they should be able to hold out till first light.  Plans were made to attempt a rescue at first light when conditions were predicted to be much better and daylight would aid in the search and rescue.
Captain Robin Walbridge Master of the HMS Bounty
At 4:26 AM the C130 reported that the Bounty had capsized and the crew was in the water.  A second C130 and two helicopters were launched in spite of the fact that the conditions were nearly above their safe operation levels.  In spite of the risk these brave crews launched into the night into the teeth of a hurricane.  When the first helicopter arrived 45 minutes later the seas were 20 feet and the wind was gusting over 90 mph!
The rest is history, they were able to save 14 crew members.  They found Ms Christian some 8.2 miles from the Bounty. She was unresponsive.  Captain Robin Walbridge was never found.

The hearings concluded around 3:30.  The conclusions will be published at a later date.

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