Chasing the Bounty

E.R. Cross

In previous columns I have stressed the importance of correspondence. The questions, comments and suggestions received from Skin Diver readers are the indispensable elements that make writing a continuing column both possible and gratifying. Questions received cover a wide range of subjects and are as varied as the interests and backgrounds of the world's dive populations.

Wreck Chasing the Bounty
A wreck chaser, Mr. Spud, wrote: The Bountys of the several Mutiny on the Bounty films continue to haunt me. I thought we had put them all to rest in October, 1988, but now comes some additional information.

About Captain Bligh's original Bounty, Spud says: The remains of the original Bounty lie on the bottom of Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island, in the South Pacific, where she sank after being scuttled and set on fire by the original mutineers in 1789. Note: The crew's mutiny occurred in mid 1789, but the Bounty was not scuttled and burned at Pitcairn Island until the spring of 1790.

In the 1950s, Bounty number two was lying at a steep angle, bow up, along the inside of the Long Beach, California, breakwater. This converted yacht was used in the film starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable in 1935.

"This is my Bounty," says Spud about number three. It was built here in Nova Scotia in the same building as the famous fishing schooner Bluenose, which is depicted on the Canadian 10 cent coin. This Bounty was the first vessel built for the sole purpose of making a movie. Underwater photographer Luis Marden dived down to the original Bounty off Pitcairn Island and recovered a spike from that vessel, which was driven into [the replicas] keel. She was used to make Mutiny on the Bounty starring the late Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando. I served on her as radio officer. This is the vessel that is a tourist attraction in Miami.

The fourth Bounty (third replica) was built in Whangarei, New Zealand. According to Spud, She was built for the movie Bounty starring Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Lieutenant William Bligh.
At the risk of being scuttled, I have to ask where lies this fourth, and hopefully last, Bounty?

Diver Down Flag
My records indicate that the diver down flag currently used by sport divers was first used in 1959. Individual states have adopted their rules and regulations for use of the diver down flag. Various countries have either adopted or banned the use of this flag.

The general interpretation by divers regarding the use of the flag and what it stands for may be erroneous. In some instances a diver is not afforded the protection believed to exist when the flag is displayed. An example of this is a Vermont state act to require underwater divers to display flags over the area where they are diving. In a letter from State Archaeologist Giovanna Peebles, Division for Historic Preservation, she states, All divers in Vermont waters are now required to display a diver down flag. As part of this law, motor boats have to stay 200 feet away from a diver down flag.

Unfortunately, this is not what the law says. The way the applicable part of the law reads is A person shall not operate any vessel which is being propelled by a motor, except a police or emergency vessel, within 200 feet of the shores of a bathing beach or other recreational spotor approach within 200 feet of a person swimming or displaying diver down flags as required by subchapter 3 of this chapter, or a canoe, rowboat or other light craft containing any person, except at a speed of less than five miles per hour. It seems that boats outfitted with motors can proceed through waters in which divers fly the diver down flag at speeds up to five miles per hour.

Divers gain very little and lose a lot when laws such as this are enacted. It becomes mandatory to fly a diver down flag and requires divers to stay within a short distance of the flag. It is obvious that divers must exercise a great deal of caution when diving in areas traversed by vessels.

Remember the old railroad crossing sign "Stop! Look! Listen!?" Do it when ready to ascend from a dive, particularly as you near the surface. Propellers and engine noises of vessels can be heard underwater for considerable distances. In most dive waters a surface vessel can be seen and avoided by a submerged diver. As a diver, your safety depends on you being aware of what is going on around you. Be alert. Be cautious. Most of all, be safe.

As part of your individual efforts to make yourself a safer diver, develop a habit of playing What if? Think about the environmental conditions of the dive site, the objective of the dive, the equipment that will be used and the possible reactions of your dive buddy. Develop mental images of how you can or will react to as many potential occurrences as possible. Ask yourself, What if this happens? What do I do? Or, If my dive buddy does this, what can I do to maintain a pattern of safety? This is fun and helpful stuff try it!