One of the world's most picturesque paeans to sailing nostalgia was claimed by the sea as giant waves off the Carolinas sunk HMS Bounty, a replica tall ship which was built for the 1962 film Mutiny On The Bounty and, more recently, took a supporting role in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
The US Coast Guard rescued 14 of the 16 crew by helicopter after receiving an emergency call late on Sunday saying the owners had lost contact with the vessel. They then received a distress signal from the captain, who said Bounty was taking on water at a rate of 2ft per hour because power had been lost, putting its bilge pumps out of action.
The overnight operation began with the deployment of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft to search for the ship. At about 4.30am, the captain determined that Bounty was sinking and ordered all on board to abandon ship. Fourteen survivors were plucked from lifeboats before dawn amid 18ft waves. The Coast Guard was searching for the two missing crew members last night.
The ship had left Connecticut and was bound for Florida when Sandy blew up in the Caribbean and moved north. "They were staying in constant contact with the National Hurricane Centre," said Tracie Simons, of the HMS Bounty Organisation. "They were trying to make it around the storm."
The original HMS Bounty, built in 1789, was deployed by the Royal Navy on a supply mission to the South Pacific when a crewman, Fletcher Christian, led one of the most famous mutinies in nautical history against the captain, William Bligh, as the ship sailed from Tahiti for the West Indies with a cargo of breadfruit. After Bligh and those loyal to him were allowed to escape in a longboat, Christian and his followers ended up landing on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, where they burned the ship and settled.
The replica was built to the original plans but was a third larger to accommodate more passengers and modern navigation equipment.
There was no word last night on the condition of the 14 who survived the sinking. According to reports, the crew posted a message on the ship's website yesterday about their concern as the storm approached. "This will be a tough voyage for the Bounty," it said.