The US Coast Guard carried out a dramatic rescue of 14 sailors flung into the sea from their sinking three-masted replica of the historic ship HMS Bounty that had starred in several Hollywood adventure films
A Coast Guard helicopter Monday morning plucked 14 of the 16 sailors from the churning sea roiled up by Hurricane Sandy, ABC News reported. But one sailor was listed as "unresponsive" and Coast Guard ships and planes were still searching for one more crew member of the tall ship.
The crew was abandoning ship during the night when the hurricane flung them into the sea.
The Bounty, the 180-ft replica of the ship featured in the film "Mutiny on the Bounty", was 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina, when the owner called saying she'd lost contact with the crew Sunday night.
HMS Bounty. Photo: AFP
A C130 plane spotted the wreckage Monday morning and Lt. Jane Pena co-piloted one of two rescue choppers to the site and found one sailor adrift by himself wearing an insulated suit called a Gumby suit.
Pena told ABC News he was spotted by the strobe lights attached to the suit. "We hoisted him up first thing," she said. "We then saw another strobe 1,000 yards away. It was the ship. It had sunk, but three masts were sticking out."
The C130 directed their helicopter to a life raft that had seven survivors in a covered raft. A video of the rescue shows a Coast Guard swimmer being lowered into the water and one-by-one attaching the sailors to the hoist line.
The ship left Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Florida. The crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Centre and tried to go around the storm, according to the director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin.
The ship, built for the 1962 film version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando and also appeared in the blockbuster "Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest", was once owned by CNN founder Ted Turner, who acquired it in 1986 along with the rights to the MGM film library.
Its owner, Bob Hansen, told CNN affiliate KUSA, that it was heading away from the hurricane when the ship began taking on water.
"At that time it wasn't considered an emergency, even though they had several feet of water inside the boat," Hansen was quoted as saying.
"She's a very large ship, and that little bit of water really does not do anything to her. But somehow we lost power in our generator and in our main engines, and as a result, we could not pump any water out of the boat."
Waves battered the ship and "it just got to the point where she couldn't stay afloat anymore".
The original Bounty had an intriguing history.
The British Admiralty purchased a coal carrying merchant ship operating on the coast of England, named Bethia, renamed her Bounty, and re-commissioned her in 1787 for a special mission. Bounty was to sail halfway around the world to the tiny island of Tahiti, collecting sapling breadfruit trees and transport them to the West Indies.
To lead the mission, the Admiralty picked 33-year-old Lt. William Bligh, who had been the sailing master on HMS Resolution on Capt. Cook's last voyage of discovery. Though portrayed as an abusive tyrant by Hollywood, Bligh may be one of the greatest seamen who ever lived, reported tallshipbounty.org.
Three weeks out of Tahiti, enroute to the West Indies with the breadfruit plants, Master's Mate (Acting Lieutenant) Fletcher Christian, angered and humiliated over the continual abuse from Capt. Bligh took the ship.