Archive for November, 2012

Clive Palmer and the Rise of “Titanic 2″

November 30th, 2012

Picture of Titanic 2

This is what the new ship is to look like

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer recently announced his intention to build a cruise ship which would be as close to an exact replica of the Titanic as possible. This new ship, “Titanic II”, bears the same name as a horrible movie which was released straight to DVD in 2010. In the movie, a replica of the Titanic was built and again sunk on its maiden voyage. In addition, Mr. Palmer’s project is actually the second attempt to build a modern full-scale replica of the Titanic. In 1998, South African businessman Sarel Gous announced a similar project, but ultimately abandoned it when he was unable to secure funding. (I can’t imagine why.)

This movie and two separate projects indicate there is a tremendous level of interest in bringing the Titanic back to life. In a similar vein, Robert Ballard, who discovered the original wreck, has proposed a “save the Titanic” project – slowing the decay with antibacterial paint – in hopes to preserve it into a virtual museum. Ballard actually uncovered several shipwrecks – the Bismarck, the Yorktown, and John Kennedy’s PT-109 – and yet, the only one that generates interest enough for museum preservation and modern replica reconstruction – is the Titanic. Why?

When one looks at well-known maritime disasters, war usually plays a part. Of Mr. Ballard’s many famous discoveries, the Titanic is the only civilian vessel. (And while he explored the wreck of the Lusitania, he is not credited with discovering it.) Also, the Lusitania was sunk as part of a wartime action. What sets the Titanic apart was that it was one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters on record. Beyond that, it was a state-of-the-art vessel – which sank on its maiden voyage, no less! All other notable peacetime maritime disasters happened with ships well past their prime and with passengers who were not among the wealthiest individuals alive – such as John Jacob Astor IV.

The Titanic, then, stands singularly in naval history: an opulent, cutting-edge ship, with its passenger list boasting many wealthy, famous names, and sunk, not by an act of war, but instead, an act of arrogance and incompetence on behalf of its captain, Captain Smith, and the micro-managing corporate executive in charge, Bruce Ismay. After being catapulted back into public consciousness through James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, it seems that the popular imagination will simply not let the story end after the credits roll.

Picture of the Model for Titanic 2

Here is a picture of Billionaire Clive Palmer next to the model of the Titanic 2

Enter Clive Palmer’s plan to build a modern full-scale replica of the ocean liner and set sail on the seas once again. Palmer’s proposal is to mirror the original Titanic as close as possible including sticking fairly close to the original ship’s deck plan. (As the original wood paneling violates modern fire standards for ocean-going vessels, the Titanic will most likely have wood veneers as did the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2.) In addition, the following technological updates are planned:

  • Two diesel, rather than three steam-powered plants will allow greater space, providing better housing for the ship’s crew and additional staff.
  • The shape of the original four smoke-stacks will be maintained, (the fourth was always fake, as there were only three power plants for each of the three propellers) with the forward two being converted to observation decks, given the new power plant design.
  • The hull plates will be welded rather than riveted.
  • The ship will carry the adequate number of lifeboats for its entire rooster of passengers and crew.
  • The original three-propellers-and-rudder will be replaced by a single static, central propeller and two azimuth thrusters.
  • The bow will be more bulbous in an effort to increase fuel efficiency.

Of course, there are numerous other, less notable, changes to update the Titanic design, and, as is standard practice today, the ship is slated to be manufactured in China.

And speaking of Titanic replicas made in China, we have a whole page of handcrafted model Titanics for you to peruse.

… All aboard?

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Search for Captain Walbridge Called Off in HMS Bounty Sinking

November 16th, 2012

The search has been called off for Captain Robert Walbridge of the HMS Bounty which sunk on Sunday, October 29th. He joins Claudine Christian as the two casualties from the Bounty’s sinking. Captain Walbridge had captained the HMS Bounty for the last 17 years and, by all accounts, had grown quite attached to the ship. While the crew of the Bounty refused to speak about its sinking, Captain Walbridge’s deep love for the tall ship most likely played a role in her sinking. What is known is that Captain Walbridge felt that in tough weather a ship stands a better chance of survival at sea rather than in port–a commonly held bit of conventional wisdom amongst sailors.

Picture of Captain Robert Walbridge

Picture of Captain Robert Walbridge

Many people are questioning why and how the HMS Bounty came to be at sea during a hurricane. Since the crew is not talking at this time, all one can do is speculate, but I believe that the story that will most likely emerge is that the Bounty was in dock in North Carolina and believed to be safely out of harm’s way. However, as the superstorm developed and widened, it became apparent that the Bounty ran the risk of being smashed to pieces by the storm while in harbor. For the crew of the Bounty, the ship represented their unique livelihood. There simply weren’t many tall ships to crew in the modern world. And so the captain and crew’s concern for their ship had layers both of love and of commerce.

Picture of Claudine Christian

Picture of Claudine Christian

At some point the captain no doubt weighed the ship’s chances of survival by staying in dock or taking to sea. The plan was then made to attempt to take the Bounty to sea and sail around the developing storm. Unfortunately, the 15-foot waves eventually overwhelmed the ship and then a distress call was sent out. The captain’s priority was to get his crew safely into the lifeboats. Accounts from the sinking state that Claudine and Captain Walbridge were the last on board and were washed overboard while attempting to get into the lifeboats.

In many ways the decisions facing the captain and crew of the HMS Bounty were typical of those facing sailors constantly. The risks of death on the job are quite real, as was depicted in the movie about another superstorm that caused the loss of a ship and crew, the Andrea Gail in the movie “The Perfect Storm.” These decisions are made with some frequency, and the vast majority of the time they work out well. It’s only when these decisions go wrong that we get to ask “why on Earth were they out there in the first place?” from the safety of our living rooms.

One of the factors that the influence these decisions is simply the love of the ship on behalf of the captain and crew and their desire to protect her from harm. But if ever there were a case to help us understand their love, it must be the case of the one of a kind tall ship, the HMS Bounty.

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Superstorm Sandy Sinks HMS Bounty

November 1st, 2012

As this article is written, Hurricane Sandy, now being dubbed “Superstorm Sandy”, is savaging the East Coast. In a situation reminiscent of the events which sank the Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm, Sandy has combined with two other independent weather systems to form a massive storm front over 1000 miles wide. It has left millions without power on the Eastern Seaboard, and flooded many parts of the country, including Manhattan’s famous subway system.
It has so far claimed approximately 30 lives, including Claudine Christian, 42, who was serving as a crew member for the tall ship, HMS Bounty. The rest of the crew of 16 have been rescued, save her captain, Robin Wallbridge, who is lost at sea and presumed dead.

The Bounty was a replica of the famous ship which saw Fletcher Christian lead a mutiny against British Captain William Bligh on April 28, 1789. The replica was built for the filming of the 1962 movie, “Mutiny on the Bounty”, starring Richard Harris and Marlon Brando. After filming concluded, the ship became a traveling tourist attraction and movie filming location. It continued to star in a number of movies including Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

The website, was established so that people could see the tall ships sailing schedule, book passage aboard her, or offer their services as a volunteer or prospective crew member. The website has confirmed that the Bounty sunk on Sunday, October 28th in 15 foot seas as the captain was attempting to sail the boat around the developing superstorm. According to the website, at 6:30PM, the Bounty sent out a distress signal that she was without power and taking on water.

Picture of the wreckage of HMS BountyThe US Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter to the ships last reported position, found the wreck of the Bounty, and began plucking her crew from the lifeboats. Claudine Christian was not in a lifeboat. Her body was discovered hours later floating and unresponsive in the open ocean. Ms. Christian is the only confirmed loss of life in the sinking of the Bounty, but her captain is also missing and presumed dead. It is not clear at this point why she was not safely waiting in the lifeboats with the others, but no doubt the treacherous seas washed her overboard as the ship sank.

Clearly, the ship had one final story to tell; one more compelling than the original story for which she was built. No doubt the sinking of the HMS Bounty will be compared to that of the Andrea Gail as both ships were sunk in freak occurrence super storms that resulted from the collision of three independent weather systems. Fortunately, at 2 deaths out of 16, the loses of the HMS Bounty are lower than that of the Andrea Gail which went down with her entire six person crew. No doubt this is because the Andrea Gail was much farther from shore than the HMS Bounty and was unable to be rescued by USCG helicopter.

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