Whangarei-built Bounty replica still afloat

By Mike Dinsdale

Relief followed by a touch of sadness were the emotions of engineering firm boss Glenn Heape when he learned that the replica of HMS Bounty, sunk by Hurricane Sandy off the North Carolina coast, was not the ship built in Whangarei.

Early yesterday (NZT), 16 members of the Nova Scotia-built Bounty replica abandoned ship off the coast of North Carolina after becoming caught in the high seas brought on by Hurricane Sandy. According to the US Coast Guard, the boat sank and two crew members were reported as missing.

As the news came through yesterday that the replica Bounty had sunk, concern was raised in Northland that it could be the one built by the old Whangarei Engineering Company (WECO) in Whangarei in 1979 and used in the 1984 Dino De Laurentiis film The Bounty.

However, the replica boat that sank was built in Nova Scotia in 1962 for the MGM film Mutiny on the Bounty, which starred Marlon Brando.

For many years, the Whangarei-built Bounty served the tourist market from Darling Harbour in Sydney, before being sold to HKR International Limited in 2007.

It is now a tourist attraction and also used for charter, excursions and sail training based in Discovery Bay, on Lantau Island, in Hong Kong.

Mr Heape, who is managing director of the new Whangarei Engineering Company and worked at WECO while the Bounty was being built, said he was watching the news yesterday morning when he saw an item about the Bounty sinking.

"I thought 'Oh no, she's bloody sunk' so I'm so pleased it wasn't our one [that sank]," he said.

It was sad though that another replica had gone down, and lives had been lost.

Mr Heape said he distinctly remembered working on the Bounty at WECO.

He was WECO's chief loftsman and it was his job to draw up all the parts of the boat by hand to full scale so they could then be sent off for fabrication.

"I remember it really well. I was disappointed when I heard it might have sunk, so it's fantastic that it hasn't," Mr Heape said.

The sunk Bounty was made of wood whereas the one built in Whangarei is constructed of welded steel oversheathed with timber.

The original, the HMS Bounty, is one of the most famous ships, known for a mutiny 2100km west of Tahiti in 1789.

The ship was sent to the Pacific to get breadfruit plants and transport them to British possessions in the West Indies.

The mission was never completed though, as disagreements between Lieutenant William Bligh and his acting Sailing Master, Fletcher Christian, led to a revolt by half of the crew and their seizure of the vessel on April 28, 1789, leading to the Mutiny on the Bounty.

- Northern Advocate

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