By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
People are often drawn to stories of heroic rescues and beating impossible odds. It’s obvious that this is true, given the number of people who came to the Walpole Library on Wednesday, October 16, to hear the story of the Bounty. Michael J. Tougias, an author of numerous genres, told the story of the Bounty in his book, “Rescue of the Bounty.”
Tougias began his talk at the beginning of the story of the Bounty. In 1962, a reconstruction of the original HMS Bounty was created for the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.” After filming for the movie was over, the new Bounty was used as a tourist attraction, occasionally taking on longer journeys. In 2012, the ship left port to travel to St. Petersburg, Florida. Simultaneously, superstorm Hurricane Sandy was making its journey up the coast. Crew members were given the option to skip the voyage by Captain Robin Walbridge. Despite storm warnings, everyone agreed to go.
Tougias then moved on to talking about the journey and the harrowing moments that the Bounty experienced. The crew moved the ship along the east coast. This decision led them to trouble, as they entered into the Gulf Stream during what was already a rough sea. There, the crew faced waves of 30 to 40 feet. “The biggest waves I’ve been out in were seven feet, and I was scared to death,” Tougias observed, making his audience chuckle and nod their heads in agreement. Then, multiple technical problems struck the ships: the propellers stopped working, the crew couldn’t properly open the sails because of the wind, and pumps to drain the water from the ship stopped working. Members of the crew, thrown around by the rough seas, suffered painful injuries, including a broken arm and back.
The third section of Tougias’ presentation covered both the struggle to rescue the Bounty crew, and some more light-hearted moments. A C-130 containing members of the Coast Guard made contact with the ship and began circling above it, waiting for the weather to become more placid - or for a rescue to be necessary. The Bounty crew then sat on the deck in their survival suits, waiting for the storm to cease and trying to keep the boat afloat. This lasted for two hours until someone had yelled over the radio that they were abandoning ship. The crew of the C130 drifted down to see what was happening. Three masts were sticking out of the water, with the crew in the water.
Tougias gave background on the rescue crew, and how they managed to pull off this nearly impossible feat. Despite the danger of the mission, the rescuers were able to bring some humor to the situation in an attempt to help their rescues. One of the rescuers opened a rescue raft and found members of the ship’s crew wide-eyed and surprised to see him. “Hey, I’m Dan. I hear you need a ride!” he introduced himself, making some of them actually laugh, despite the horrendous situation.
When interviewing for his book, one of the rescued crew members mentioned to Tougias how one of the Coast Guard ran at a wall and hit a wall at full speed, with no explanation. When Tougias interviewed the Coast Guard member, he asked why. The Coast Guard officer was surprised that the crew member noticed, but explained that he had dislocated his arm while pulling people into the aircraft. With no one available to help him, the Coast Guard officer ran at the wall to fix his arm so he could continue pulling people up.
The ridiculous, but understandable, explanation had Tougias’ entire audience chuckling.