Why would an experienced tall ship captain sail headlong into the teeth of a well-forecast hurricane barreling toward a destructive and historic assault on the Northeast?
It’s a question that’s left many wondering.
Bounty captain Robin Walbridge made the decision to leave New London, Conn., with 15 crewmembers and wound up running into Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The Bounty — a replica of the 18th-century British naval ship, built for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty” — went to the bottom. Walbridge and crewmember Claudene Christian did not survive.
The Tampa Bay Times has documented the fateful voyage, with journalist Michael Kruse incorporating testimony and interviews with survivors, former crewmembers, family and friends of crewmembers, Coast Guard rescuers, tall ship captains and experts and several other sources.
“In the dark, in the wet, whirling roar of Hurricane Sandy, on a ship tipping so badly the deck felt like a steep, slick roof, the desperate, damaged sailor searched for a spot from which to jump,” Kruse’s narrative reads. “Close to the stern, he gripped the helm, now all but touching the water's high black churn. He let go and paddled and kicked in the buoyant but clumsy blood-orange suit he had wiggled into not long before. The ship spat up a heavy wooden grating, and it landed on his head. Crack.”
The project, which also featured original artwork depicting the sinking, was published in three parts by the Tama Bay Times.
“Why did they go?" Kruse said in an interview with weather.com, echoing the question many have asked since the ship's sinking. "If you are a sailor, you sail. If you are a sailor, you respond to certain hierarchy. … Human nature is human nature, whether you’re talking about the late 1700s or the 21st century."
Click the links below for Soundings’ coverage of the sinking: