Using Google Earth imagery to document warships, the one problem is, you can never go back. Before about the year 2000, there are very few captures. This means the warship types documented in our pages overwhelming represent ship classes in service from the late 1970s (leaving service in the early 2000s) up to today.
Wouldn’t it be nice if older aerial imagery of naval ports could be incorporated into our database? Well, for our home fleet, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), we were able to do just that. In the Fall of 2022, as the World blundered out of Pandemic closures, the Shipsearcher Identification Section (SIS) deployed to the offices of the National Air Photo Library, at Natural Resources Canada. We have been updating our list with these unique views. We look forward to continuing the research.
Wading through photo reconnaissance flight lines and a challenging database, we called up aerials from Esquimalt, BC, and Halifax, NS, from the 1960s and early 1970s. What we found was a target-rich environment of Cold War fleet units on Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The RCN of the early postwar era continued to be oriented to Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). The aerial mapping flights caught views of St. Laurent class and follow-on Destroyer Escorts, including some of the newer upgrades with helicopter flight decks or ASROC anti-submarine mortars replacing a Limbo ASW launcher.
Older Prestonian-class ocean escorts, based on wartime River class frigate hulls, were economical conversions. To complement these surface combatants, we also have a view of both former USN submarines HMCS Grilse, a Balao class diesel-electric attack boat and veteran of World War 2 that had served six war patrols in the Pacific War, and HMCS Rainbow, a similar Tench class. Before the acquisition of new Oberon class boats, these two old boats –Rainbow succeeding Grilse– kept the submarine service afloat. Other long-gone RCN units we added range from Cape Class fleet maintenance ships (having posted about the last of these), HMCS Provider replenishment ship, HMCS Labrador icebreaker, and the list goes on down to the little Bird Class patrol boats.
We encourage you to visit the pages to see these views of a vanished era in Canadian naval history. It all adds up to a more robust documentation of the post-Second World War Canadian Navy: 18 new views that help add 10 new classes of RCN ships. We hope to continue to expand our listings to include new sources of aerial or satellite imagery.
This post will briefly explore the career of the first Bounty replica. The last post explored the history of the original HMAV Bounty of 1787, and the next post will focus on the later 1978 replica.
The first major replica of HM Armed Vessel Bounty, of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, had a remarkable career in her own right.* Her story could readily form the basis of a theatrical production or a motion picture. This new Bounty was completed in 1960, at Smith and Rhuland shipyard, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Smith and Rhuland are one of the last examples of the shipyards that made Atlantic Canada one of the most prolific centers of wooden shipbuilding from the 1850s to the 1870s.
This shipyard had built famous schooners such as Bluenose, and would go on to build stunning replicas, such as the Bluenose II, and HMS Rose/Surprise. Bounty’s design and construction was funded by Metro Goldwyn Mayer, for their blockbuster Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard (as Fletcher Christian and Lt. Bligh, respectively). After trials, the ship left for filming in Tahiti, with a working crew of Nova Scotians, who would spend more than a year far from home. The film would debut to mixed reviews in 1962.
This replica had taken 8 months to complete and, to help filming on board, was much larger than the original ship; the movie ship was at least 30 feet longer, with a total sparred length of 180′, a 120′ long weather deck, and a breadth (maximum hull width) of 31.5′. All this gave the ship 200 tons of added weight. 400,000 board feet of wood –mostly oak and Douglas fir– went into construction. Bounty could be propelled by its auxiliary engines, but was a fully-functioning wooden-hulled sailing vessel that could hoist a massive spread of canvas on her three masts. The main mast soared to 111 feet above the water.
This Bounty wore a distinctive livery of a broad black wale above the waterline, and dark blue sides, with yellow strakes running above the wale and at the level of the weather (upper) deck, and yellow ornamentation at the stern and at the headrails behind the figurehead.
The deck fittings and inboard machinery, such as gangways, hatches, the capstan and windlass, were painted white, while the ship’s gunwales above the deck were a bright red colour traditionally used inboard on warships of the Royal Navy.
During filming, this replica was originally intended to have been burned, like the original, at Pitcairn Island. Marlon Brando insisted he would not finish his scenes, unless the ship was saved from destruction. A large model was destroyed instead. In 1986 the ship passed to the ownership of movie mogul Ted Turner, and continued making promotional tours and appearing in television and film productions. From the mid-1960s until the late 1980s, Bounty was captained by Hugh Boyd, the first of two long-service Bounty captains.**
Turner donated the ship in 1993 to the Fall River Chamber Foundation, Massachusetts. The resulting Tall Ship Bounty Foundation operated her until 2001. A highlight of this era was Bounty’s involvement in training US Navy crews for USS Constitution’s restoration as a sailing warship. Bounty’s crew helped train USN personnel in sail handling and other duties involved in operating a fully-rigged ship, even as the USS Constitution was rebuilt and strengthened. When the two-hundred-year-old ship raised its sails and began to gather way for the first time in more than a Century, 21 July 1997, it was in part because of the support of Bounty and her crew. Bounty’s captain, Robin Walbridge, had also taken time away from Bounty to advise Constitution’s crew, and was a guest captain at the sailing.
Another notable event from this period were the false reports of her sinking in early Oct. 1998. Bounty encountered trouble while on the way to Charleston, SC. Reports of a malfunctioning pump and some flooding requiring Coast Guard assistance escalated to the point that the Tall Ship Bounty Foundation had to reassure the public that the media had been mistaken. Unfortunately, this event was symptomatic of Bounty’s worsening physical condition in the late 1990s. The 2001 sale of the leaky ship to HMS Bounty Organization, based out of Greenport, NY, began with a much-needed massive restoration.
The vessel spent its summers, for more than three decades, at St. Petersburg, Florida, where Bounty ran excursions, and was a notable local attraction. The ship and crew worked themselves into the fabric of community life. For our shipsearcher project, it has been extraordinarily difficult to locate satellite imagery of the ship. The only satellite view we have ever located has Bounty at the old municipal pier off St. Petersburg.***
In addition to the occasional film work, most years her enthusiastic crew maintained a busy schedule, visiting ports-of-call and participating in tall ships events, dockside sail training programs, and heritage programming. Her classic paint scheme was revised in the early 2000s, for filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. She played the Edinburgh Trader, a merchant ship later destroyed by a kraken. Once again, a large model stood in for the replica! Bounty now featured dark green sides over the black wale, and the deck fittings received a muted sand tone.
Financing Bounty’s operation was a constant struggle, because of the steep costs of safely maintaining a traditionally-built, elaborately-rigged wooden sailing ship. Repair and refit work at Boothbay shipyard in Maine and elsewhere could begin to look like complete rebuilds. Around 2003 a major refit saw her original copper bottom-cladding removed and replaced by anti-fouling paint on the wooden underbody. Some of the work was geared at upgrading Bounty’s equipment to meet specifications for certification as a Sailing School Vessel (SSV), which would have allowed her to embark passengers and trainees in addition to crew. During the 2006-2007 Boothbay restoration of Bounty, large steel plates were added over the hawse holes, where modern anchors were prominently mounted there. This removed some of the decorative cheek pieces around the bows. This and the paint job made the vessel look less and less like the instantly recognizable movie ship, and gave her bows a more “apple-cheeked” working-ship appearance.
The tragedy that struck this Bounty in 2012 was deeply troubling. As Hurricane Sandy bore down on New London, Connecticut, on the 25th October, Capt. Walbridge made a decision to leave port, get some sea room between the ship and the storm, and try to skirt around the worst of the weather to the East of the developing system. The ship was due to resume its usual winter activities around Florida. He was a veteran skipper, with decades of sailing experience – most of which was on Bounty. He led a dedicated but inexperienced crew. They supported his decision to put to sea, rather than risk damage to Bounty in port. Despite multiple warnings urging all civilian craft to head for a safe anchorage, Walbridge took the small 52-year old wooden ship and his crew of 15 out .****
By the 27th, the vessel was being battered by violent seas. The unusual motion was making several crew members wretchedly sick, and Bounty was taking on water, with one generator out and the newly-installed electric pumps of the dewatering system struggling to keep pace. Worse still, two other hydraulic pumps and a gasoline-powered portable pump all could not be brought online. Suffering bouts of seasickness, the engineer could barely attend to his machinery, and crew members were nursing a number of injuries. Around 11:00 PM on the 28th of October, the situation rapidly deteriorated, with Walbridge emailing his organization that he did not know if Bounty could stay afloat until an orderly evacuation could be performed after daybreak . Weather conditions were too dire to evacuate from Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters. Early on the 29th of October, the exhausted crew had lost the battle to keep Bounty under any kind of control, the pumps were not functioning and the vessel’s electricity was disabled. Bounty was flooding fast.
Around 3:00 AM the crew gathered at the navigation shack, as the tween’ decks flooded beneath them. They discussed abandoning Bounty and taking to the two large rafts. Walbridge, now injured, was struggling with the enormity of the disaster. He asked crewmembers when it had all gone so wrong. By now they were wearing cumbersome immersion suits. The crew retreated to the weatherdeck to prepare the rafts. At 4:26 AM, Bounty’s bows dove under, and she pitched on to her starboard beam ends, throwing the evacuation into complete chaos. Crew members had to scramble into the cold water in darkness. Some were hit by objects or entangled in rigging. They struggled to get clear as the ship’s masts rose out of the water and crashed back down. The Chief Mate had communicated with an orbiting Coast Guard C-130 Hercules. Soon, another C-130 and two Jayhawks were on route.
Arriving on scene two hours later, at daybreak, helicopter crews were confronted with something that looked like a scene from Robinson Crusoe: An antique wooden ship was dying. They succeeded in rescuing 14 crew, in incredibly difficult conditions. Rescuers could not locate Walbridge or deck hand Claudene Christian. Christian’s body was recovered hours later. The last sighting of Bounty was from the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Elm around 7:00 PM, when she was about 120 miles SE of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, drifting mostly submerged, with masts still above the surface. She sank in about 14,000 feet of water. Despite an extensive search, Bounty’s captain was never found.
The eventual Coast Guard investigation found fault with the captain’s decision to put to sea in the face of storm-warnings. Bounty also departed from the planned course, and the Coast Guard heard about the worsening situation on the ship mostly via second-hand information from the shore offices of HMS Bounty Organization. The National Transportation Safety Board official report concluded that the decision to put to sea was reckless, and that basic safety precautions, including ensuring the vessel was well maintained with functioning safety appliances, were absent.
This replica lasted decades longer than the original ship. Though gone, she lives on in the memories of those, like us, who had a chance to see this amazing ship, on her visits up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Atlantic Canada, and at many ports-of-call around the World. Recently, there has been revived interest in building another North American or even Canadian replica. As we will see in the third and final instalment of our Bounty trilogy, there are other, more economical options available for building a Bounty.
*for the 1935 movie, filming was done using either a converted schooner or a barge. A converted barge that played HMS Pandora sank soon after.
**Bounty’s longtime captain, Hugh Boyd, outlasted his beloved ship, passing away in late January, 2022. Boyd was originally from Dartmouth, NS, and was on the crew that went out to Tahiti.
***We were quite certain this was Bounty, and then confirmed it using the archived schedule of Bounty from 2005/12 available at the wayback machine, a good resource for information about this Bounty.
****this account is based closely on the detailed timeline provided in the US Coast Guard investigation, and the National Transportation Safety Board report, both linked to above.
52 years after the record smashing flight of HMCS Bras d’Or FHE-400, we explore Canadian milestones in the development of naval hydrofoil technology with great images!
Have the naval hydrofoils had their day? It’s hard not to think that the best flying is behind us, when we look at the glory days when HMCS Bras d’Or (FHE-400) wowed observers near Halifax, Nova Scotia, flying up on her foils at 62 knots, or 114.8 km/h. This wondrous burst of speed occurred 52 years ago today. For this post, the Shipsearcher staff historian takes a look at Canadian naval hydrofoils. A future post will provide a brief survey of other navies’ remaining hydrofoils.
Hydrofoils are a unique mix of aircraft and boat: “Foils” fitted to the lower hull of a vessel act in the water like wings do in the air. With speed and adjustment of the foils, lift is achieved, which raises the watercraft up, and allows it to become “foilborne” with the hull or main body of the craft flying over the surface of the water. When flying, there is very little water resistance to slow the craft down, and so hydrofoils can attain remarkable speeds, and can also be very stable during their flight.
The development of hydrofoil technology was an international effort. Canada played an important role in both the origins of the technology, and some of its milestones. Scottish/American inventor Alexander Graham Bell may be regarded as the founding father of naval hydrofoil technology. Hydrofoil experiments came out of his interest in aviation, where he and a small group were designing pioneering aircraft or “aerodrome” (Bell’s term) designs at the very beginnings of powered flight.
Experiments in designing floats for aircraft to become airborne from a water-start led to a passionate interest in achieving lift using wing-like foils in the water. Bell worked out of his estate and laboratory “Beinn Bhreagh” on the Bras d’Or Lakes of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the first years of the 20th Century. He had been inspired by Italian inventor Enrico Forlanini’s earlier work building hydrofoil boats on Lake Maggiore, in Italy, and had travelled there in 1910 to see these craft. He and his associates, especially F.W. “Casey” Baldwin, collaborated on a whole series of experimental designs.
Each iteration of hydrodome overcame faults which had often destroyed the previous craft. During 1913, Bell and Baldwin got to work on a new design, “Hydrodome number 4” – HD-4 – that they hoped would correct previous design flaws, and lead to possible naval contracts. The First World War interrupted further work, as Bell’s Cape Breton boat-works were given over to wartime construction.
Work on HD-4 resumed at the conclusion of hostilities. The US Navy supplied the Liberty V-12 aircraft engines, and evaluated her in September, 1919. The HD-4 was a triumph for Bell and Baldwin, flying at 61.5 knots, or 114 km/h – a record-breaking speed. Two years later the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) evaluated HD-4 for different purposes. No naval construction followed these projects. Casey Baldwin continued development of several more HD craft after Alexander Graham Bell’s death in August, 1922.
Development of a military hydrofoil project became a focus of Canadian government defence research after the Second World War. The RCN partnered with the Defence Research Board (DRB) to work on the Canadian Hydrofoil Project. A cadre of experts forming around the Naval Research Establishment in Halifax, NS. The team looked again at the designs of Bell and Baldwin, subsequent developments, and contemporary programs, such as US Navy hydrofoil designs. Canadian designs would focus on surface-piercing hydrofoil technology. A 45-foot boat, the Massawippi (R-100), was initially acquired in 1951. It helped develop the ladder style of foils used in subsequent designs.
Next came the Bras d’Or (R-103), built by British Saunders-Roe as a unique design. The hull tapered along its length, to a distinctive narrow transom, to give the rear foils room. The V-shaped ladder foils had not benefited from the same rigorous design experimentation as other aspects, and the craft struggled to become foil-borne on trials. Bras d’Or was shipped across the Atlantic in 1957 on the new RCN carrier, HMCS Bonaventure. In testing she eventually reached speeds of 30 knots, or 55 km/h.
Defence researchers also used a small experimental craft, Rx, to try and overcome issues that were encountered with Bras d’Or, and the “cavitation barrier” which was impeding the development of faster hydrofoils. The hydrofoil system could be easily modified to test different concepts.
Challenges encountered during the testing of R-103, and solutions for optimizing the foil configuration tested on the Rx, would continue to inform the design of the ultimate Canadian project: HMCS Bras d’Or (FHE-400). The new craft was a 160-foot long, 240 ton space-aged wonder. De Havilland Canada was selected as the prime contractor and the craft was built at Marine Industries Ltd., at Sorel Quebec, between 1963-1968.
Just about everything about the construction of this craft was innovative, from the aluminum hull-form (built upside-down in the shed at Sorel) and Pratt & Whitney gas turbine engines used in construction, to the advanced diamond shaped foils, forged from special maraging steel. The ship needed to be controlled by a qualified pilot, and the small wheelhouse looked more like the cockpit of a jetliner. Instead of rudders, the vessel’s steering was controlled by the unique rotating forward foil. Designers worried about the crew tasked with serving in this revolutionary craft, and effort was spent trying to develop comfortable quarters and sleeping arrangements, and, since a galley was out of the question, the ship was even fitted with the newly-developed microwave oven!
Unusual as it might sound today, Bras d’Or was intended to have been used in an open-ocean or Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role, with the navy also experimenting with a special light and compact Variable Depth Sonar outfit: the SQS-507. The armament would have featured two sets of triple torpedo tubes. It was hoped that a small fleet of hydrofoils would replace the aging, wartime-built fleet of frigates then leaving service, and be significantly less expensive than the RCN’s “Cadillac” destroyer-escorts. The concept of the ASW hydrofoil was that it would patrol in hull-borne mode up to a respectable speed of 23 knots, using regular marine diesels. Bras d’Or was fitted with Paxman diesel engines. Upon establishing a sonar contact, the ship would dash to close proximity using the extraordinary foil-borne speed, before reacquiring the contact and attacking. After lengthy development and a fire that set back construction, Bras d’Or was ready for commissioning in July 1968 (the smaller R-103 was renamed Baddeck to leave the name free for its bigger successor).
Testing in the waters near Halifax showed her exceptional stability when flying, even in heavy seas. On 9 July 1969, Bras d’Or flew at speeds of up to 62 knots (114 km/h). As far as we know, this still makes her the fastest commissioned warship.* Unfortunately, changing government defence priorities resulted in the hydrofoil project being set aside. HMCS Bras d’Or was decommissioning in November 1971, and this coincided with an end to further Canadian military hydrofoil development. The costs of the program no longer looked likely to provide the RCN with a fleet of “cheap” ASW hydrofoils, and many of the technologies, such as the special sonar and the armament for the ship, had yet to be fully developed, and may have led to more costly programs. As a concept, the ASW hydrofoil was an evolutionary dead-end. Internationally, the development of military hydrofoils continued to focus on high-speed coastal patrol, torpedo boats, and fast-attack craft (gun and missile-armed).
Today, we are fortunate to have relics of the era when Canada was at the cutting edge of hydrofoil development. HMCS Bras d’Or survives out of the water at the Musée Maritime du Québec, at Islet, QC.
Baddeck (the former Bras d’Or) is in storage at the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, Ontario. After a long period of outside storage, the partially-disassembled boat rests inside a new state-of-the-art preservation facility, and, we hope, will be reunited with its preserved foils.
Massawippi (R-100) appears to have survived, after her 1959 decommissioning, at either at the Nova Scotia Museum or the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (possibly at a storage facility in Mount Uniacke, NS). Canadian Aviation Historical Society member Kyle Huth let us know about the survival of this boat, while we also located some information about historian Thomas Lynch’s attempts to locate R-100, which can be found at the International Hydrofoil Society’s website. Alexander Graham Bell’s HD-4 Hydrodome also partially survives in Baddeck, NS, at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, near a full-scale replica. A future post will pick up the story by examining international naval hydrofoil development and other surviving craft.
For a detailed account of both Alexander Graham Bell and Casey Baldwin’s work, as well as the subsequent RCN projects, see John Boileau’s Fastest in the World; the Saga of Canada’s Revolutionary Hydrofoils (Halifax: Formac Publishing Co. 2004).