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HMS Bounty casualty claimed tie to mutinous Fletcher Christian

Claudene Christian perished in the tragic sinking Monday of a replica HMS Bounty, after the ship went down in hurricane Sandy-swept seas. She had claimed a a family tie to Fletcher Christian, chief mutineer on the original ship.

By Staff writer / October 30, 2012

In this file photo, the tall ship HMS Bounty sails on Lake Erie off Cleveland.

Mark Duncan/AP/File

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When Claudene Christian applied earlier this year for a spot as a mate on the famous tall ship replica of the HMS Bounty, she probably had a little edge: Her family claimed a historical connection to the original ship via Fletcher Christian, who had instigated the 1789 mutiny that propelled the Bounty and its crew into maritime history and Hollywood fantasy.

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In an almost inexplicable twist on that family legacy, Ms. Christian is so far the only confirmed casualty from the loss of the 1962 replica, which sank Monday off Cape Hatteras, N.C., in the high seas wrought by hurricane Sandy. The captain of the HMS Bounty, Robin Walbridge, remains missing, though the US Coast Guard has not given up the search.

Maritime historians say the Bounty story as told by Hollywood – the heroic Christian versus the evil Captain Bligh – created a false reality, as actors such as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Mel Gibson all portrayed Christian. To some, Ms. Christian's death at sea seems almost as surreal, a bizarre series of events that reads like a Hollywood script.

“If there had been no movies, there would have been no replica [of the Bounty], and if there had been no replica there would have been no [Claudene] Christian aboard, so there’s this confluence of pop culture, history, and tragedy” overshadowing the Bounty’s demise, says Edward Willett, author of “The Bounty Mutiny: From the Court Case to the Movie."

In her 40s and with little sailing background, Christian appeared to revel in her adventures on the seas, according to news reports. “I am in LOVE with my ship … BOUNTY,” she wrote on Twitter in July. Earlier, in June, she had tweeted: “I had a tough day, lost in the sails But it was sunny, warm & I am on a TALL SHIP AT SEA. It's a 'Bountyful' life.”

Christian had indicated in interviews that she relished her family’s connection to the Bounty and its legacy, which she said included maritime reforms of how captains could treat their crews. After talking to some of the replica’s builders in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this past summer, Christian told a local reporter that “it’s so good for me to see them, and maybe it’s because I’m so attached to the Bounty because I’m Claudene Christian.”

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