No Longer Bountiful – the careers of three Bounty ships – Part 1 – HM Armed Vessel Bounty (1787)

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.

Bounty plans 1787 RMG
Bounty Deck and general arrangement plans, 1787, showing the location of the breadfruit planters in the expanded “garden” which replaced the Great Cabin at the stern, and other major features. © Crown copyright. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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.

Bounty model RMG l2363_003
A modern interpretation of Bounty for exhibition, which generally shows a simply adorned ship, with natural hull-sides, a broad black lower wale, and light blue on the solid bulwarks along the level of the weather deck, Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich

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.

A large scale model of Bounty’s launch, rigged for sailing. Lt. Bligh and his remaining crew undertook an incredible 3,600 nautical mile-journey in this boat. Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich. SLR2992.

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.

Bounty mutiny painting
The mutineers turning Lt. Bligh and part of the Officers and Crew adrift from His Majesty’s Ship the Bounty [ 29 April 1789] by Evans and Dodd. Bligh had insisted Bounty be equipped with a larger 23′ launch, which ended up serving him in good stead when he and crew loyal to him were cast adrift. Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. PAH9205
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.

From Cold Warrior to the Last Blockship? The strange retirement of the cruiser Ochakov.

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.

Ochakov “in her prime” taken from a USN aircraft Feb. 1982. USN photo DN-ST-82-04655, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Ochakov soon after sinking in March 2014 at the Donuzlav Pass. Credit:, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Ochakov in Donuzlav, two years after it was used as a blockship nearby by Russian forces. It is now several kilometers up the Lake from the Pass, resting near other rusting hulks. Credit: Mitte27, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Three Thousand Shipsearcher views, many more pages, and 2021 debrief!

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!

Type 003 Shanghai 2021-11 The major Chinese naval development of the recent era is the Type 03 carrier, which is roughly the size of the first US supercarriers of the 1950s, and larger than what any other country has yet produced. Recently released imagery shows the state of construction near Shanghai.  

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!

The resource has a total of more than 400 pages. Navy index pages (found under shipsearcher menu above) lead to sub-categories of warships. We also built pages for supercarrier scrapping and Chinese island fortress construction, and terms of use and sources for our images, which also explains how we go about trying to identify ships. Recently, we took a side trip to document the World’s sailing warships and replicas, and fairly ridiculous pirate ships!

Hermione replica frigate Rochefort 2017 The French replica of the frigate Hermione, the ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to America during the Revolution, showing her lovely lines and towering rig. This and about a hundred other sailing warships of various types can be seen at the newly added page!

Using the search box can trawl up some interesting results across pages. For example searches for unique ship types such as hydrofoilsmuseum 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!

Ethiopia A-01 Barnegat Class Yemen 2003 One of the most important discoveries we feel we made was the fate of the last WW2 US Navy Barnegat seaplane tender known to exist. USS Orca, a Pacific war veteran, was transferred to Ethiopia and served as the flagship. It fled to Yemen in 1991 during the civil war, with much of the fleet. We located the last views of this veteran behind the contested Yemeni port of Hodeidah, and added it to our small navies, great ships pages.
FakeUScarrierBandar Abbas2020-03 We’ve been pretty interested in the fake Iranian carrier at Bandar Abbas since we first added it to the carriers pages, and we have continued to follow her interesting life. This shows the last views of her before she was again destroyed in an Iranian swarming attack exercise.

FakeUScarrierwreckBandar Abbas2020-08
And the post-exercise wreck…after it had blocked the approaches to the main naval port of Bandar Abbas and then been hauled aside.

Vesikko sub museum Helsinki 2015 A rare example of a 1930s coastal submarine, the Finish Navy’s Vesikko is displayed, with interesting camouflage, in Helsinki. This sub and others can be found at the small navies submarine page.
Prinz Eugen cruiser wreck Kwajalein Atill 2013 The former German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, recommissioned as the USS Prinz Eugen for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, is capsized, with the wreck in deeper water towards the bow. The good news is all the hazardous oil remaining in the wreck was removed a few years ago!
Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California We are also interested in any aerial photography we can locate, and will use it to source older views of ships. Here, two Cleveland Class light cruisers are laid up in the Pacific reserve fleet at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, 1960 [Detail of NH 888083] Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command
Cleveland class Light Cruisers San Francisco 1946 And to accompany the above, an early aerial loaded in Google Earth catalogue of similar Cleveland class cruisers just after WW2. Note the outboard ship shows the large hangar space at the stern of these cruisers.
Cuban Navy frigate convert Havana 2014 How do you turn a fishing trawler into a guided missile frigate? Well, Cuba has a long history of making do with what equipment they have on hand. This view shows the addition of the helicopter flight deck aft and missile tubes forward – One of the more interesting frigates found in our small navies – great ships pages.
HMVS Cerberus Melbourne 2018 HMVS / HMAS Cerberus breakwater. This hulk of a unique “Breastwork Monitor,” probably the last remaining type of this craft, has an important history in the establishment of the Australian naval service.

Great Wall Type 031 SSB Qingdao museum 2020
The Chinese Navy submarine page is a recent addition. It proved a challenge to locate submarines in the many bases of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Qingao Naval Museum has several historic PLAN units, including the Type 031 “Great Wall 200” (lower boat), a Chinese-built, modified Soviet Golf class submarine important to the ballistic missile program, and the Changzheng 1 (1974-2000) the first PLAN nuclear-powered boat (upper). To see these and newer boats, visit the page.

Black Pearl - Queen Anne's Revenge pirate ship castaway cay Pirates of the Caribbean fans will be appalled that we titled this as the wrong pirate ship! Of course this is actually the movie ship the Flying Dutchman, which we believe to be a creative interpretation of both the Swedish royal warship Vasa, and something really, really bad. Enjoy this and our other pirate ships!
PAVN Turya class PCK Nha Trang 2020 We have an interest in hydrofoils, and tracked down these elderly Russian-designed boats in Vietnam. This Vietnamese navy Turya / Project 206M class Hydrofoil torpedo boat is at Nah Trang.
HTMS Phosampton Algerine class Ban Samet Ngam 2015 The HTMS Phosampton, decommissioned and awaiting either preservation or destruction. This is the World’s last existing Algerine class Second World War minesweeper, formerly HMS Minstrel. We wrote both a post and added this to the relevant page.
Dom Fernando II e Glória Lisbon 2018Dom Fernando II e Glória at Lisbon. A remarkable 50-gun frigate built in then-Portuguese India and commissioned in 1845.
HTMS Thonburi Coastal Defence memorial Thai Naval Academy 2015 HTMS Thonburi artifacts, arranged in an interesting way that replicates the forward spaces of this powerful coastal defence ship. The “emerging from a tree” thing was probably not the original intention!
Shabab Oman II WS Oman 2021 The new and beautiful Omani sail training ship Shabab Oman II (2014)
Titanic replica Daying Co. China 2021 We found a creative place to slot this view of the Titanic replica under construction in Daying County, China, choosing to use it to illustrate sister-ships Olympic and Britannic, that served respectively as a troop transport and a hospital ship. The replica is up to deck level, with speculation about whether it will ever be completed.

*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.