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Coast Guard Probing Tall Ship's Sinking; Captain Had Spoken About Hurricanes

The HMS Bounty as the tall ship sank Monday off the coast of North Carolina.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski/U.S. Coast Guard
Getty Images
The HMS Bounty as the tall ship sank Monday off the coast of North Carolina.

There's word from The Associated Press that the Coast Guard "has ordered a formal investigation into the sinking of a famous tall ship off the coast of North Carolina during Hurricane Sandy."

As we've reported, the HMS Bounty — built for the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty and used in other films since then — sank on Monday. One member of the crew, 42-year-old shipmate Claudene Christian, died. The captain, Robin Walbridge, is still missing and the search for him has been suspended. Fourteen crew members were saved. There's dramatic video of the Coast Guard's rescue operation here.

Earlier this week, we posted that Walbridge's judgment was being questioned. Now, we see there's a video produced this summer in Maine in which he talks about how to safely navigate storms.

The video is a little more than 28 minutes long. Around the 10:25 mark, Walbridge is asked about sailing in rough seas. "We say there's no such thing as bad weather," he responds. "There's just different kinds of weather."

Then, Walbridge adds with a laugh that "we chase hurricanes."

He doesn't appear to mean that the ship goes in search of such storms. Rather, when sailing in such weather, he says, "you try and get up as close to the eye of it as you can ... [stay] down in the southeast quadrant" and try not to "get in front of it."

The Bounty set sail last Thursday from Connecticut and was headed for Florida. Sandy, meanwhile, was coming up from the Caribbean toward the East Coast of the U.S. On the ship's Facebook page Sunday, a message was posted that the Bounty "has now positioned herself to pass on the west side of Hurricane Sandy."

According to the AP, the Coast Guard's investigation "will consider whether any failure of equipment or personnel contributed to the crew member's death. ... The investigation is expected to take several months."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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