Wreck of the mysterious De Rooswijk merchant ship that sank off the coast of Kent drowning 350 people will finally be recovered after 277 years
- The merchant ship set sail from the Netherlands, laden with silver in 1740
- It sank on the notorious Goodwin Sands in Kent, killing all 350 people on board
- Several dives since it was found in 1996 have recovered silver and coins
- But this summer, divers from the UK and Netherlands will recover the entire wreckage, in the hopes of understanding life in the Dutch Golden Age
New book reveals last words of doomed HMS Bounty's arrogant captain who'd sailed INTO the path of Hurricane Sandy
He was the captain who led his crew into eye of Superstorm Sandy, the biggest and most brutal hurricane in living memory.
But it was only just as the famed HMS Bounty was about to sink that Robin Walbridge finally admitted defeat, MailOnline can reveal.
In ‘The Gathering Wind’, a new book seen exclusively by MailOnline before its release next week, Walbridge called the crew of 15 below deck for one last speech in which he ordered them: 'Learn from this.'
In sharp contrast to his previous defiance, he shouted above the howling winds tearing the ship apart: ‘What went wrong? At what point did we lose control?’
Destruction: A new book has detailed the final moments of The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, which submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina
Walbridge’s last, ominous words to them all were: ‘Get some rest while you can. You’re going to need it’.
The 180ft tall HMS Bounty, which was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando classic Mutiny on the Bounty, sank off the coast of North Carolina near Cape Hatteras early in the morning of Monday October 29th last year in an area known as the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’.
Two of the crew on the ship died; Walbridge, 63, and deckhand Claudene Christian, 42, a former University of Southern California song girl. Fourteen others survived. Afterwards grave concerns were raised about the entire expedition, the Coast Guard began an official inquiry and Christian’s family filed a $90 million lawsuit over her death.
Walbridge has been painted as an arrogant man who rode his luck one too many times - with fatal consequences. Critics say he should never have even set sail at all.
Sandy, a ‘Frankenstorm’ made up of two storm systems, would go on to affect some 60 million Americans as it tore up the East coast and grow to 1,100 miles wide with winds up to 110mph.
The streets of Manhattan flooded and knocked out the power for half of the island, some $68 billion of damage was caused in the US and at least 286 people were killed.
Dramatic: An image taken inside the helicopter shows the moment crew members were saved from the ship
Walbridge was aware of the warnings about Sandy because he got them on the ship’s computer - but still decided to go directly into its path.
He left New London, Connecticut on Thursday October 25th bound for St Petersburg, Florida on board the ship that he had captained for 17 years and was the love of his life.
It was a replica of the 1784 Royal Navy vessel which has also appeared in a string of Hollywood blockbusters including two Pirates of the Caribbean films.
But it was also not licensed to take the public out to sea and Walbridge had a reputation for bending the rules to keep it afloat with not enough money for extensive repairs.
Walbridge was apparently convinced that the hundreds of experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were wrong and that the storm would not continue its path up the Eastern Coast of the US.
Instead he thought that it would come out into the Atlantic Ocean and he could creep round it to the West. He was wrong.
In one of her last communications before she died, Christian texted a friend in Florida: ‘Wow! Here we go... straight into Hurricane Sandy.’
Struggle: A footage still shows one of the crew of the Bounty being rescued from a life raft by the Coast Guard after the vessel sank after the captain went against forecasters' advice and sailed into the storm
The adventure of a lifetime for some of the crew who were young and loving the romance of sailing a tall ship was about to end.
Waves up to 30ft high - the size of two story houses - crashed over the vessel, sending deck hand Adam Prokosh, 27, flying between decks, dislocating his shoulder and breaking several ribs.
One wave propelled Walbridge into a table, leaving him badly hurt and lying on the floor in pain.
The wind ripped down several sails and at 6.30pm on Sunday October 28th the second generator failed meaning that they were unable to pump out the bilge water that swamped the lower decks in a matter of hours, meaning they were were adrift and taking on water in the middle of the storm.
The crew had already alerted the coast guard which sent a plane sent from North Carolina to track them down but the winds were so severe it would be sent up two hundred feet in a second, then go back down again a second later.
In 'The Gathering Wind' author Gregory A. Freeman writes that as it became apparent that the end was nigh, Walbridge called the crew to the navigation shack and ‘looked over them silently’.
Destroyed: An image taken in July 2010 shows the tall ship HMS Bounty sailing on Lake Erie off Cleveland
He told them: ‘Water bottles. Don’t forget to take your own water bottle with you….make sure there’s an EPIRB (emergency beacon) activated in each life raft….stay together’.
The book reads: ‘But then Walbridge got to what was really on his mind. He must have understood that his decision to set sail from New London was a mistake.
‘And Walbridge always taught his crew to learn from their mistakes. This was to be his last teachable moment for the crew of the Bounty.
‘He said: ‘I’d like everyone to brainstorm where we went wrong’. ‘How did we get here,’ Walbridge asked loudly, looking around the nav shack, still in command of his ship. ‘What went wrong? At what point did we lose control?’
‘There was only silence as Walbridge looked around the room. His crew watched him intently, but some had trouble meeting his gaze. They knew what Walbridge was saying to them.
'Learn from this,' Walbridge said more quietly.'
The book says that Walbridge looked weary in a way that they had never seen before. Walbridge then told them his final words as their captain: ‘Get some rest while you can. You’re going to need it in a couple of hours.’
'Arrogant': The late Captain Robin Walbridge, pictured working on the Bounty in 2011, 'recklessly ignored Sandy's size, scope and intensity', according to a lawsuit brought by the family of a victim.
Before the storm: Bosun Laura Groves and Chris Malloon work on the rigging in 2010 as the Bounty sailed between New Brunswick and Maine for a haul out. Two crew members died in the storm but 14 survived
The crew radioed the C-130 coast guard plane circling over head at 4.45am on Sunday October 25th to say the Bounty was capsizing.
Everyone got into a ‘Gumby’ suit, which is a large inflatable survival suit - then all hell broke loose when the Bounty suddenly turned on its side, sending everyone into the water.
New details: The final terrifying moments are detailed in the new book, out next week
The book recounts how the masts and rigging kept rising up in the water and crashing down on the sailors, hitting first mate John Svendsen and breaking his arm and cutting his face.
Every time the rest of the crew tried to swim away - which took a superhuman effort in their bulky Gumby suits - another rope would tangle onto them and try to suck them under.
Their suits were so heavy and their hands were so bulky inside them that it took 45 minutes to get the first person in the life raft by grabbing a rope to pull themselves up with their teeth.
Somehow 14 of the 16 on board made it to life rafts or clung on to wooden that was floating in the debris until the coastguard helicopter picked them all up.
Christian’s body was later found floating by another coastguard helicopter team.
Walbridge was never seen again, but soon after the recriminations began.
In February the Coast Guard held a week-long hearing in Portsmouth, Virginia into what happened. Its official report is due next year.
What came out left Christian’s family appalled.
Walbridge was apparently so keen to get to Florida on time because he had scheduled a meeting with a nonprofit organization dedicated to Down syndrome research, which might have helped bring in some money for the ship too.
The suggestion was that he and the ship’s owner, New York businessman Robert Hanse, were worried that if they missed the meeting the agreement would fall apart.
Team: Captain Walbridge (right) is pictured working with the other Bounty crew. Despite his apparently rash - and ultimately deadly - decisions, the crew has refused to say a bad word against the captain
During the hearing it also emerged that, whilst in dry dock before the trip, Walbridge refused to approve the removal of rotten wood on the boat because it would have cost a lot of money.
An unfortunate interview he gave emerged in which he bragged ‘we chase hurricanes’ and said that they gave the ship a ‘good ride’.
Walbridge also did not tell his crew the full extent of Sandy’s strength and when senior members raised concerns he told them not to worry.
No other tall ships were out of port during Sandy, and hardly any other vessels were even with more modern hulls made of steel.
Hanse refused to testify at the coast guard hearing and took the Fifth meaning nobody will ever know the full truth.
So Christian’s family’s lawsuit against him, Walbridge, the Bounty operating company and the crew alleging that the ship ended up in ‘the greatest mismatch between a vessel and a peril of the sea that would ever occur or could be imagined’.
The lawsuit states: ‘Captain Walbridge, who was focused on the rewards lying in St Petersburg, recklessly ignored Sandy's size, scope and intensity.
Crew: Chief mate John Svendsen at the helm of the Bounty in 2010. He was second in command on the Bounty and known for his calm authority
Working together: Third mate Dan Cleveland doing some maintenance on the rigging of the Bounty in 2011
‘He also grossly overestimated, to the point of recklessness, Bounty's seaworthiness and overestimated his professional seamanship and weather forecasting abilities to the point of arrogant hubris’.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that he put them in grave danger for no reason, Walbridge’s crew still somehow stood by him.
It is one of the most puzzling episodes of the whole tragedy, not least as they were being paid
just $100 a week for working 18-hour days.
Under questioning at the hearing Jess Hewitt, a 25-year-old qualified captain and crew member, refused to put the knife into Walbridge.
And when told by a lawyer for Christian’s family that nobody would say a bad word against him, her response was: ‘That’s awesome’.
Third mate Dan Cleveland, 25, was even more forthright in his defence of Walbridge.
‘The Gathering Wind’ reads: ‘If Walbridge were alive today and proposed sailing into another hurricane or storm, Cleveland would go with him because the outcome of the Bounty's last voyage was not inevitable.
Tragedy: As well as the captain, a woman died and other crew members suffered broken bones and injuries
‘The loss of the ship and two lives was the result of series of problems, he says, and that the sequence of events does not have to repeat itself. If just a few things had turned out differently, the Bounty would have made it through Hurricane Sandy, he insists.'
Speaking to MailOnline, Freeman said that in his assessment Walbridge did make a 'serious and tragic mistake'.
He thought that in time the crew will eventually 'come to the realization that Walbridge made tragic errors’, but that the camaraderie was so strong the couldn’t see it yet.
He said: 'It's hard to call for a mutiny because it's such a powerful word but in retrospect, I think the crew should have more forcefully told the captain that this was a bad idea, yes'.
Freeman, who has previously written a narrative non-fiction book about WWII soldiers, added that in those final moments Walbridge ‘realised that he had made this error’.
He said: 'I don't see him as the villain. Everyone agrees that he had an admirable career
on the sea until that point and he was considered a very fine captain'.
INTO THE TEMPEST
Divers race against the clock to uncover the secrets buried on the De Rooswijk merchant ship that sank off the coast of Kent 277 years ago
Divers are racing against time to preserve the wreck of a Dutch treasure ship which sank off the British coast.
The Dutch merchant ship De Rooswijk carrying chests of silver ingots, silver dollars and pieces of eight hit treacherous sandbanks in January 1740.
The ship, on its way to buy nutmeg and pepper in the East Indies sank, killing all on board - some 250 men, women and children.
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Divers are racing against time to preserve the wreck of a Dutch treasure ship which sank off the British coast (pictured). Partial recovery work was carried out on the wreck in 2005 and parts of its cargo recovered, but conservationists fear that the wreck could be destroyed
Now several reinforced wooden chests - expected to contain precious metals -have been recovered and are being stored under water.
But now conservationists, fearing that the ship's was threatening to break up underwater have launched an urgent recovery operation at Goodwin Sands, in Kent.
The shifting sands and strong currents off the coast of Deal threaten to destroy the wreck in the next few years.
While buried in sand the ship is protected.
But as the sand rolls, exposing the ship's timbers, this puts it at the mercy of the tides, as well as from rogue treasure hunters.
Martijn Manders, leader of the excavation, and working for the Dutch government, owns of the vessel said: 'The Goodwin Sands has been a treacherous place for ships throughout the centuries and is now a treasure trove for archaeologists.'
A further threat is from a Mediterranean shipworm, increasingly finding its way to the UK, which could chew away at the timbers.
Mark Dunkley, a marine archaeologist from Historic England, which is in charge of protecting the site said: 'The ship is threatened by a new type of ship worm which has come from the Mediterranean Sea and is moving north because the sea around Britain is getting warmer with climate change.
'It's reached as far north as Felixstowe so any shipwreck below that latitude is threatened by it.
The Dutch merchant ship De Rooswijkcarrying chests of silver ingots, silver dollars and pieces of eight hit treacherous sandbanks in January 1740 (artist's impression pictured)
The ship, on its way to buy nutmeg and pepper in the East Indies sank, killing all on board - some 250 men, women and children. Several silver 'Pillar dollars' (pictured), minted in Mexico, have been found on the ship along with silver pieces of eight
'It burrows into any wood which speeds up decay and makes the wrecks vulnerable. It attacks the timbers and wooden chests.
'So it's important that we start conserving these things now to prevent any more damage.'
Little is known about the crew of the ship, skippered by Daniel Rousiers, which first sailed to what was then Batavia – modern day Indonesia - in 1737.
To recover objects (pictured), the team use a machine to carefully suck up the sand from the site, revealing buried artefacts.
It sank on the second day of its second voyage in 1740.
To recover objects, the team use a machine to carefully suck up the sand from the site, revealing buried artefacts.
Three large chests have been recovered from the current excavation which may contain bullion.
The archaeologists will carefully open the chests slowly after they are X-rayed to discover what is inside, to ensure nothing might be inadvertently damaged in the process.
The divers have also recovered spoons, shoes, belt buckles, pipes, pewter tankards, glassware, ornate knife handles, and musket balls.
Several cannons are still on the sea bed.
Several silver 'Pillar dollars' – minted in Mexico – have been found on the ship along with silver pieces of eight.
The research team believe that some of the silver was being smuggled by sailors for their own personal trade.
The items recovered from the sea are being stored in fresh water and will be on display to the public in Ramsgate.
Three large chests have been recovered from the current excavation which may contain bullion. This image shows conservation team member Elisabeth Kuiber holds a piece of eight silver coin from the Rooswijk
The divers have also recovered spoons, shoes, belt buckles, pipes, pewter tankards, glassware, ornate knife handles, and musket balls (pictured)
This image shows a pewter jug found during excavation works on the Rooswijk. Several cannons and an anchor are still on the sea bed
Divers are also beginning to recover human remains from the 26-metre-long ship – bones which can be examined and tested for DNA to get insight into the lives of those on board.
Mark Dunkley, a marine archaeologist from Historic England explained 'With the finds that we're bringing up we're seeing how they lived on board, and now with the remains we are seeing how they died as well.'
It would be too expensive to pull the whole ship out of the sand, store and conserve it, as happened with Henry VIII's warship the Mary Rose, recovered in 1982 off the coast of Portsmouth.
Mr Dunkley said the shipwreck site had been monitored since it became a protected site in 2007. He said: 'Our last survey was last year when more material was exposed than ever before.'
The research team believe that some of the silver was being smuggled by sailors for their own personal trade. This image shows conservation team members Elisabeth Kuiber and Eric Nordgren with finds including musket balls and a spoon from the Rooswijk
The archaeologists will carefully open the chests slowly after they are X-rayed to discover what is inside, to ensure nothing might be inadvertently damaged in the process. This images shows pewter spoons found during excavation works
Divers are also beginning to recover human remains from the 26-metre-long ship – bones which can be examined and tested for DNA to get insight into the lives of those on board. This image shows shoe parts found on the wreck
Researchers in the Netherlands are combing archives for further information about the De Rooswijk.
Mr Dunkley said: 'There were probably some women on the ship.
They could have been 'guests of the lower deck', a term for prostitutes.
He said that in most archaeological sites are graveyards where people have died naturally.
Finding the remains of healthy individuals who died in the prime of their life 'Is like an underwater Pompeii', Mr Dunkley said.
Researchers in the Netherlands are combing archives for further information about the De Rooswijk. This image shows a pewter jug found on the ship
This image shows conservationist Thijs Coenen with a pewter jug he recovered from the wreck of the Dutch East India Company ship
This glass bottle was found by an international team of maritime archaeologists exploring the wreck
'We've got that population at the minute that castastrophe happened.
'It's very rare to find a grave and know how that person died.
'Here we know everyone drowned or were crushed prior to drowning.'
In 2004, diver Ken Welling visited the wreck, and retrieved two complete chests and hundreds of silver bars.
Several hundred Mexican silver cobs of the 1720s and early 1730s, and transitional 'klippes' that date to around 1733 have been recovered.
Hundreds more 'pillar dollars' have also been discovered and sold at auction.
As well as wrecked ships, in 2000 a crashed German Dornier Do-17 Z bomber, downed in 1940 during World War II was recovered from the sands.
This image shows a drawing of a ship similar to the Rooswijk made by Adolf van der Laan in 1716
The Dutch merchant ship sank on the notorious Goodwin Sands (pictured) near Deal in Kent, which stretch offshore between Dover and Ramsgate, killing all 350 people on board
Around 1866 he returned to St Mary’s with his family and he was assisted in his photography by his sons Alexander and Herbert in the studio shed in the back garden of their home.