October 25: The Fateful, Fatal, and Final Voyage of the Bounty


The HMS Bounty is undoubtedly one of the most famous and storied sailing vessels in history, capturing the world’s imagination ever since the original British ship was the site of a famous mutiny against Captain William Bligh in 1789 in the South Pacific.

Even though the original HMS Bounty was destroyed in 1790, a number of replicas have extended her legacy and legend into the 21st century. The most famous replica of the Bounty was built in Nova Scotia in 1960, having been commissioned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studios to serve as the set for their forthcoming 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty. While the film script was heavily fictionalized, the Bounty itself was not; it was the first known large-scale historical ship replica that was built according to the most historically accurate documentation of the period.

After starring in Mutiny on the Bounty, the replica Bounty ship found a new home in St. Petersburg, Florida as a tourist attraction and occasional film prop (e.g. in the 1989 film Treasure Island). After decades of deferred maintenance threatened the Bounty’s seaworthiness, the ship underwent a complete restoration in 2002 and found a second life as a set piece in big-budget feature films, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

When the Bounty wasn’t on-camera, she sailed the world as a training vessel and tourist attraction. In late October 2012, she made a stop at New London’s city pier, where Navy sailors stationed at the nearby Naval Submarine Base in Groton had the opportunity to climb the ship’s 112-foot masts — if they dared. On October 25, the Bounty set sail from New London for what was — unbeknownst to anyone at the time — its final voyage, heading southward toward St. Petersburg. For reasons that still elude investigators, the ship, which did possess modern-day radar and navigation equipment, sailed right into the heart of Hurricane Sandy four days later, and proved to be no match for the storm’s three-story waves and wicked winds. After the ship took on a critical amount of water and radioed for help, the Coast Guard executed a daring rescue in the midst of the raging storm where it rescued 14 crew members. One crew member died in the storm, and the captain of the Bounty was never found, having gone down with the ship. A tragic end to a storied vessel began with a send-off from New London, on this day in Connecticut history.

A still image of the Bounty sinking after sailing into Hurricane Sandy, taken from footage of the Coast Guard’s rescue attempt.

Further Reading

Matthew Shaer, “The Sinking of the Bounty,The Atavist Magazine