Wednesday, September 7, 2011


It's a frequent joke among charter guests. "We should have a mutiny!" they cry, more often than not raising a glass of pinot noir in salute. It's a romantic and somewhat old-fashioned notion, owing more to Clarke Gable and Humphrey Bogart than to reality. Although the most famous mutiny, that on the HMS Bounty, lies two centuries in the past, mutiny continues to be a problem today.

These passengers could not, strictly speaking, make a mutiny. As I noted in my very first post on the blog more than two years ago: "If the crew illegally takes control of a vessel, its cargo, etc. it’s called mutiny. If an outside person or persons do so it’s called piracy. If the captain does so it’s called barratry." Thus, the wine-loving charter guests would technically be pirates, not mutineers.

Among the more famous recent mutinies:

Columbia Eagle, 1970. In the first armed mutiny aboard a US ship in 150 years, two merchant seamen seized control of a merchant vessel carrying napalm bombs to American forces in Southeast Asia. The mutineers put 24 crew members off the ship, then ordered the remaining 13 to take the vessel to Cambodia. Although initially granted asylum, a coup in Cambodia led to the ship and crew being returned to the US three weeks later. One of the mutineers, steward Alvin Glatkowski, eventually served ten years in prison for mutiny and other crimes. Fireman Clyde McKay escaped, disappeared and was presumed dead.

Velos, 1973. The Greek destroyer, formerly the USS Charette, commanded by Nicolaos Pappas, refused to return to Greece after joint NATO exercises. Pappas had noted that several fellow officers opposed to the 1967 junta-installed government in Greece had been arrested and precipitated the mutiny as a means of brining world attention to the situation in Greece. Pappas and several crew members sought asylum in Italy, after which the ship was returned to Greece. The gambit worked, however, and the junta fell the following year.

Storozhevoy, 1975. The Soviet anti-submarine frigate was seized by the political officer, Valery Sablin, and crew members loyal to him with the intent of using the vessel to broadcast a program decrying the forsaking of the principles of the Russian Revolution. The Soviet navy took quick action, disabling the ship and storming it with marine commandos. Sablin was executed in 1976. The incident was one of the inspirations for the novel and film The Hunt For Red October.

Majestic Blue, 2009. The former South Korean purse seiner fishing vessel was re-flagged in the US, but continued to operate with a largely foreign crew under the terms of a wavier. The new American captain, Doug Pine, came to realize that he was only to be a "paper captain" and was resisted by the former captain (now called the "fishing master") in his attempts to secure more humane treatment for the crew, compliance with environmental laws, and even participate in navigation of the vessel. Pine would eventually leave the vessel, partly in fear of his own safety, and say that he planned to file mutiny charges against certain members of the crew. The vessel sank in June 2010.

Gorch Foch, 2010. Four cadets aboard the tall ship, a training ship for Germany's merchant navy, refused to climb the rigging after a colleague was killed in a fall. They were charged with "inciting a rebellion," but subsequent investigation led to charges of sexual harassment and improper conduct by the captain and officers. The captain was suspended in January of this year and reinstated in March.

No comments:

Post a Comment