The first of a three part post on the original Bounty, of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, and both full-size sailing replicas of this famous little ship.
This post will briefly explore the career of the original HMAV Bounty. Upcoming posts will focus on the full-scale Bounty replicas built in 1960 and 1978 for feature films.
The history of the Bounty’s mission and her crew has been popularized, interpreted, reinterpreted, and fictionalized in countless ways since the original late-18th Century events. The shipsearcher naval historian would like to focus on the ill-fated ship at the center of this drama. Bounty had been completed in 1784 at Kingston-upon-Hull as the merchant ship “Bethia.” Acquired by the Royal Navy as His Majesty’s Armed Vessel Bounty in 1787, this small, gem-like full-rigged ship was 91 feet along the weather deck, with a breadth of 24.4 feet and was 220 tons burthen. Bounty received modifications to transport breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the West Indies, in a scheme to grow cheaper food to feed slaves – the ugly truth of the vessel’s purpose. Below the waterline, the ship’s hull was coppered, to help prevent marine growth which could slow the ship and eventually eat away at the wood. Lieutenant William Bligh, who had experience as sailing master on Captain Cook’s final exploration mission, commanded the expedition.
The ship had bluff bows, and a pleasing sheer (forward and aft rise to the decks). Bounty’s design was very similar to the Whitby colliers used on Captain Cook’s expeditions. She was slightly smaller than HM Bark Endeavour, from his first expedition. She also had a flush (continuous) weather deck, compared to Endeavour’s raised forecastle and quarterdeck. Forward, the head rails led to a figurehead of a woman with a riding hat (fully clothed – a rarity!), retained from her civilian service. Restrained decorative elements included badge-style quarter lights (looking very much like small bay windows) and 5 lights spanning the stern transom. The Admiralty installed an armament of four 4-pounder cannon and ten 1/2 pound swivel guns, which could be mounted atop posts sited along the gunwales.
After a journey of 10 months, Bounty made landfall in Tahiti in October, 1788. The 44-man crew got down to the business of harvesting breadfruit trees, to install in special planters fitted in the great cabin aft. Relations between the islanders and the crew complicated the vessels eventual departure, and on 28 April 1789 half of the crew, led by Fletcher Christian, Bligh’s trusted sailing master, mutinied and cast Bligh and the loyal crew members adrift in the ship’s 23′ long launch.
Bligh and almost all his crew survived an incredible open boat journey. Some of the mutineers, and a few crew who could not be accommodated in the launch, returned to Tahiti, while Christian and others pushed on in Bounty in search of a Pacific sanctuary safe from the long reach of the Admiralty. After being stripped of useful gear the ship was burned and sunk off Pitcairn Island in January 1790.
These events, the later efforts to bring the mutineers to Royal Navy justice, and the remaining lives of Bounty crew members in the South Pacific, lived on in the public imagination, and formed the basis of non-fiction, fictionalized dramatizations, plays and parodies. In the new medium of film, movies of the events were made as early as 1917. A 1935 movie starring Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian won accolades, and is still considered one of the best interpretations. That movie used a converted schooner for filming. A quarter-century later, Hollywood executives from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer were looking for a more accurate replica for their grand movie project. Our next post will pick up the story by exploring the first full-sized sailing replica.
It’s odd to think of a Cold War missile cruiser ending up a blockship in the 21st Century, but this is exactly what happened to the Kara / Project 1134B missile cruiser Ochakov near its long-time Black Sea naval base, Sevastopol. At 570-feet long, and 9,700 tons displacement, these “large anti-submarine warships” (in Soviet classification) were almost exactly the same size as the USN Ticonderoga class missile cruisers. They were built in nearby Mykolaiv, a center of Soviet Russian shipbuilding now located within the borders of Ukraine. Ochakov had a long career, serving from 1973-2011. The ship had been inactive at Sevastopol since modernization was halted in 2000.
The retired ship is infamous, though, for something that happened after her active life. Ochakov was repurposed by the Russian forces to to seal Ukrainian ships in Lake Donuzlav during the March 2014 early stages of the Russo-Ukrainian War. A naval task force of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which included the larger Slava class missile cruiser Moskva, towed Ochakov early on the 6th of March to a location just astride the narrow Donuzlav Pass, where the vessel was purposefully sunk. Ochakov came to rest partially-submerged on its port side in shallow water. For those unfamiliar with the term, a blockship is any ship, naval or civilian, deliberately sunk to block a river, channel, canal, strait, fjord, or entrance to a port, for either defensive or offensive purposes.
The hostile act of bottling up the Lake with the Ochakov hulk and two other small ships had strategic consequences: it led directly to the surrender of the Ukranian Navy’s Southern Naval Base whose dozen warships could not escape to other naval facilities in the Black Sea.
Wikipedia currently reports Ochakov was raised in late 2014 and towed back to Inkerman, near Sevastopol, to be dismantled. Satellite imagery clearly shows that the ship never left the Lake.
As it awaits dismantlement, Ochakov is the last unit of its class in existence. The other Kara in Sevastopol, Kerch, served until damaged by a fire in 2014. Kerch was scrapped in late 2020. This is probably where the confusion came from. For other information we have about this and two other Kara class cruisers, see the Russian current and retired cruisers listing.
A while back we posted about reaching the milestone of a thousand shipsearcher warship views, and pointed to some of the most interesting captures and ship stories. We have now found more than 3,000 warships using open satellite imagery, and added these to the Shipsearcher database of pages! We continued our mission to travel the World and the Seven Seas to document 24 more navies, and added a special consolidated page of large or notable naval units from all smaller navies.* During 2021, we welcomed more than 20,000 visitors to our pages, with about 50,000 views.
We created a release history page, so that visitors can see when pages/navies were added to the project, with all pages hyperlinked. We hope to do updates when/if we can. We know for some navies, such as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, the pace of new additions to the fleet has rendered the information dated as soon as it came out! The images below link to the relevant page. It’s a hyperlink-rich environment, folks, so click often and please share!
A project that began as a quick look at active and retired United States Navy carriers has now documented more than 50 World navies, from the largest carriers to museum and sail training ships, down to large patrol boats. We also went back and retrospectively added in pages for submarines into the arrangement of every navy that operates these nefarious boats!
Using the search box can trawl up some interesting results across pages. For example searches for unique ship types such as hydrofoils, museum ships or wrecks will guide you to the relevant pages. Just do a “control F” search in the page to get to the ship. So what are some of the most interesting or odd captures we’ve located since our last round-up post? Check out below, with links to posts and pages, and keep exploring the database!
*As a general – sometimes disregarded -convention, navies with 3 or more frigates, or a mix of a destroyer or submarines, or a powerful force of corvettes or ocean patrol vessels, have their own pages, while notable ships from other navies get added to the “Small Navies – Great Ships” pages.