Also see (below) dramatic video footage of rescue of Bounty crew in life raft and swimming in water.
The wife of Captain Robin Walbridge of the HMS Bounty has just issued a statement to press that her husband and another female crew member remain missing in 18-foot waves off the coast of Cape Hatteras after the tall ship went down last night in heavy seas due to the monster storm sandy.
Claudene Christian, 42, of Vian, Oklahoma is also confirmed the second crew member missing, as reported by her mother to a local news station. Christian is reported to be a distant relative of Fletcher Christian, the original Master’s Mate who seized command of the ship during the infamous mutiny.
Christian’s parents are headed to North Carolina and remain in constant contact with the Coast Guard, according to her mother, who is also called Claudene.
The ship was on its way from New London, Conn. to St. Petersburg, Fla. The tall ship was built for the 1962 movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Christian mother said the last contacted they had with their daughter was on Thursday when she called to tell them that she loved them and that she wouldn’t be able to contact them from the sea, her mom said.
Christian is a graduate of University of Southern California, as well as a former Miss Teen Alaska.
She is the also the creator of “Cheerleader Dolls.”
Her aunt, Patricia Saulsberry, said Christian took an interest in ships when she toured replicas of the Nina and the Pinta. She joined the crew of the HMS Bounty in May, according to Christian’s Twitter account.
The last Facebook posting by the Bounty on the ship’s fan page was at 2 p.m. on Sunday. “Looks to be sailing thru the tail end of the rain storms.”
Last reported coordinates were at N 34 degrees 22' W 074 degrees 15', speed 10.3 knots.
While it was initially reported that all crew members made it onto two covered life rafts, the Coast Guard is now reporting only 14 people lifted by helicopters from two lifeboats launched when the ship starting taking on water and sank a few hours later. Reports still vary in whether there were 16 or 17 people aboard the ship.
First reports from HMS Bounty said all crew members had entered two lifeboats after donning life jackets and cold-water survival suits and abandoned the ship after sending out a distress signal.
However, about an hour ago, Bounty crew member Douglas Faunt posted this account on his Facebook page, “The ship sank beneath us, but we swam free and mostly got into two rafts.
I'm at the USCG station Elizabeth City NC. There are two unaccounted for at present.”
Bounty media spokesperson Kathy Gilbert of Pirates of the Treasure Coast, said this also the information she and Michael Marsh - also of POTTC have received.
“We did hear now that the ship was taking on water and sank beneath them. They did have to swim to the lifeboats and for what we’ve heard – only a couple or a few made it into the boats. Everything for us is still coming in. Like everyone, we are anxiously awaiting news about missing crew members.”
At this time, Gilbert said they had not received confirmation on the identities of the missing crew, but had also heard the Captain could be among the missing.
Pirates of the Treasure Coast does all media and promotions for the HMS Bounty and the couple often sails with the ship but they were not onboard the ship last night.
“We are devastated,” Gilbert said. “Our hearts are breaking and every minute that goes by now and we don’t hear anything makes it worse. It means it is not looking good for the ship or those who are missing. We are asking everyone to please pray.”
Gilbert said the ship was headed from New London, Connecticut and back to their former homeport of St. Petersburg, Florida, to take part in a ceremony to say farewell to the St. Pete Pier, which is scheduled to be torn down later this year.
The ship's Facebook page also confirmed the ship had sunk after being pounded by 18-ft waves from Sandy, and that 14 of 17 onboard had been rescued by 8 a.m. ET. This statement was also posted: “Please bear with us...There are so many conflicting stories going on now. We are waiting for some confirmation.”
IN PICTURES: Sandy – the perfect storm
In an ABC WJCC interview with Coast Guard Atlantic Vice Admiral Robert Parker, he also confirmed there are still two to three crew members still missing. He said also said the ship was now completely sunken beneath the waves, and that a search is currently underway by air and sea to locate the missing crew members.
The Vice Admiral said the Coast Guard sent a C-130 and two rescue helicopters, HH60s, to rescue the crew. At around 7 a.m., Parker said there were five crew members aboard one helicopter and nine in another.
The Coast Guard has also confirmed that all rescued crew members are in “good shape” for their ordeal, and that the search is ongoing for missing crew members.
“I’m always mindful that the first reports are usually wrong in these circumstances, but we’ll certainly hope for the best but we are preparing for the worst,” Parker said in regards to the unaccounted for crew members.
Gilbert confirmed that the 180-foot ship had lost engine power and was reported to have been taking on about two feet of water per hour.
She said the closest thing that can be determined is that the Bounty had taken on about ten feet of water when Capt. Robin Walbridge gave the order to abandon ship.
“I had this awful feeling of something bad happening all last night, and then we got this terrible news,” Marsh said.
Parker said the Coast Guard first received a call at around 9:45 p.m. Sunday evening from the ship's owner who said she had lost communication with the crew.
The Coast Guard's 5th District command center in Portsmouth, Va., say they later picked up a signal from the ship's emergency radio beacon that confirmed it was in distress and gave its position.
The ship was trapped in 40 mph winds and 18-foot seas about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., and 160 miles west of the eye of the hurricane, according to a Coast Guard statement.
Claudia McCann, wife of Captain Walbridge, told press the ship was trying to get around Hurricane Sandy.
"He was just trying to avoid it, skirt it. Skirt through it, skirt around it," McCann told CBC, a Nova Scotia news station early this morning. "I'm sure he's devastated - absolutely devastated. But the crew comes first and you have to save the crew."
Alex Anders, a naval enthusiast, posted on Facebook under many speculative comments about why the Bounty was sailing into the storm. “They left port thinking that they could round the storm due to the information they had at the time. This storm has grown and moved in unexpected ways. It grew over and around them and there was nothing they could do.
Capt. Herb Carroll, known on Facebook as Msts Blyth, also stated, “Knowing and having a greatest of respect for Capt. Robin Walbridge, he made the right decision to go out and weather the storm, rather than to remain in port and be pounded to pieces! His decision to abandon would have been taken for the sake of the crew! The ship would carry on, but the crew would have been exhausted, and a danger to both the ship and themselves! Good call Robin! In a similar position I would do the same!! …HMS Bounty is a wooden ship, and it would not surprise me in the slightest if she is still afloat once the storm has passed.
Many are also speculating that the Bounty might be able to be salvaged. At this hour, while Marsh said they don’t know the depth of water where the Bounty went down, they also have hope that the ship may be submerged just below the surface.
“If the ship is not churned to pieces or broken up by the waves, it is possible for a wooden ship to resurface or possible be salvaged,” Marsh said.
Called “the world's most famous tall ship,” the HMS Bounty, celebrated its 223rd anniversary of the notorious mutiny (April 26, 1789) in St. Augustine, Florida. A special celebration of the anniversary brought fans and tall ship enthusiasts from around the world to America’s oldest city April 26 - 28 – including a host of dignitaries and six of the 28 Pirate Lords from the Worldwide Order of Leviathan.
Local Pirate reenactor and Pirate Lord William McCrea, also known by his pirate name, Capt. Mayhem, played the role of the ill-fated Captain Bligh at aboard the Bounty from anniversary events in St. Augustine.
“My phone has just been exploding today,” said McCrea, who was on his way back from a Savannah pirate event. “Everyone is so sad about this. This is a tragic moment in history, and for the reenactment community – but also for naval history. The crew is in everyone’s prayers because we got to know so many of them while they were here.”
For Bounty World Tour slideshow and special feature on the famous tall ship, HMS Bounty, See examiner article: Hollywood legend to visit America's oldest city
Remembering the HMS Bounty: more photos from St. Augustine:
An almost exact replica of the original, the HMS Bounty was built for the 1962 filming of the Hollywood Classic “Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Marlon Brando, but also featured the helm used in the 1935 movie starring Clark Gable.
View: Mutiny on the Bounty 1935 Movie Clip - To the Masthead! "Mutiny on the Bounty" 1962 Trailer 1884 movie “The Bounty” with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins (youtube.com): FULL LENGTH MOVIE download
Thousands of fans worldwide also follow the HMS Bounty’s travels at: Where is the Bounty now?
“I saw the ship in Savannah this summer and met some of the crew,” said Eva Bryant of Palm Coast, Florida. “She was lofty and noble, and the most beautiful of the all the ships. I can’t bear the thought that she is now lost. I am praying for the crew members. They were all so nice. This is truly a tragedy.”
Also is a post on Facebook by Tampa pirate reenactor and historic costume designer, Freya Fólkvangr, photos and fond memories of the Bounty’s anniversary party in St. Augustine, “THIS very night - these smiles, voices, friends and memories… I will celebrate her and the joy, memories, and friendship (the HMS Bounty) helped to create.”
Bill Baxter, also a pirate reenactor, commented, “With any luck (or) love, she will either be raised from the depths or rebuilt better than ever. Keep hope alive.”
Linda Brown Elders also posted this on the HMS Bounty’s Facebook page, “The safety of the crew is number one above all else. Nonetheless, what a shame to lose the ship. I first saw it in St. Petersburg when I was 16 years old, not long after the Marlon Brandon version of the movie.”
Daniel Stambaugh, of Lake Worth, Florida, also lamented the possible loss of life, and posted,
“My prayers are with the two people lost at sea and their families. I honor the owners for having such high tech life-saving equipment on board that may have saved several others.”
Stambaugh also recalled his memories of the tall ship, “The Bounty would often dock at the St. Petersburg Pier in Florida Thought it was not the original handmade Bounty Ship, but a replica made for the movie. It was such a beautiful site truly representing an example of American craftsmanship at its best. There sadly will probably never be another like it, and we have lost one of a kind.”