After months of investigation and more than a week of trials, one question regarding the Bounty's fateful final voyage remains:
February 21, in the final moments of the hearing in Portsmouth, Va., Coast Guard 5th District Commander Kevin Carroll asked Chief Mate John Svendson why the Bounty decided to set sail before its imminent October 29 sinking 90 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras.
A large portion of the trial focused on why Captain Robin Walbridge decided to set sail into Hurricane Sandy when most ships were at port or hauled-out. Walbridge was lost at sea and crewmember Claudene Christian died as a result of the ship sinking.
“I've talked to a lot of mariners and I couldn't find one who would agree that a ship is safer at sea than it is in port, at least during a hurricane,” Carroll said. “Why? Why would he make this decision?”
“I struggle with that myself,” Svendson said.
During the last two days of the trial, several other ship captains, including the Pride of Baltimore II's Capt. Jan Miles and Picton Castle's Capt. Dan Moreland questioned why Walbridge decided to set sail when it was known Hurricane Sandy would be a severe storm and they themselves decided to remain at port.
The hearings that started February 12 achieved their primary goal as a fact-finding mission, Carroll said.
“This has all been very informative,” he said. “I think this will help educate a lot of people, but it leaves us still wanting to know: Why?”
It will be another several months before any findings or decisions are made regarding the Bounty sinking.
Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 207-633-4620 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter:@BBRegisterBen.