The Worst Shark Attack in History
2013-08-09 0:00

By Natasha Geiling | Past Imperfect



The USS Indianapolis had delivered the crucial components of first operational atomic bomb to a naval base on the Pacific island of Tinian. On August 6, 1945, the weapon would level Hiroshima. But now, on July 28, the Indianapolis sailed from Guam, without an escort, to meet the battleship USS Idaho in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines and prepare for an invasion of Japan.

The next day was quiet, with the Indianapolis making about 17 knots through swells of five or six feet in the seemingly endless Pacific. As the sun set over the ship, the sailors played cards and read books; some spoke with the ship’s priest, Father Thomas Conway.

But shortly after midnight, a Japanese torpedo hit the Indianapolis in the starboard bow, blowing almost 65 feet of the ship’s bow out of the water and igniting a tank containing 3,500 gallons of aviation fuel into a pillar of fire shooting several hundred feet into the sky. Then another torpedo from the same submarine hit closer to midship, hitting fuel tanks and powder magazines and setting off a chain reaction of explosions that effectively ripped the Indianapolis in two. Still traveling at 17 knots, the Indianapolis began taking on massive amounts of water; the ship sank in just 12 minutes. Of the 1,196 men aboard, 900 made it into the water alive. Their ordeal—what is considered the worst shark attack in history—was just beginning.

As the sun rose on July 30, the survivors bobbed in the water. Life rafts were scarce. The living searched for the dead floating in the water and appropriated their lifejackets for survivors who had none. Hoping to keep some semblance of order, survivors began forming groups—some small, some over 300—in the open water. Soon enough they would be staving off exposure, thirst—and sharks.

The animals were drawn by the sound of the explosions, the sinking of the ship and the thrashing and blood in the water. Though many species of shark live in the open water, none is considered as aggressive as the oceanic whitetip. Reports from the Indianapolis survivors indicate that the sharks tended to attack live victims close to the surface, leading historians to believe that most of the shark-related causalities came from oceanic whitetips.

The first night, the sharks focused on the floating dead. But the survivors’ struggles in the water only attracted more and more sharks, which could feel their motions through a biological feature known as a lateral line: receptors along their bodies that pick up changes in pressure and movement from hundreds of yards away. As the sharks turned their attentions toward the living, especially the injured and the bleeding, sailors tried to quarantine themselves away from anyone with an open wound, and when someone died, they would push the body away, hoping to sacrifice the corpse in return for a reprieve from a shark’s jaw.

[...]

Read the full article at: smithsonianmag.com



"Documentary about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945, with accounts from the actual survivors combined with some dramatic reconstruction."




Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Kanye West says in his VMA 2015 speech that he's running for president in 2020
2015-09-01 0:15
'And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.' Kanye West received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at tonight's MTV Video Music Awards, and he closed his acceptance speech by announcing he's running for president in 2020. Yes, really! The segment started with a bang when West was handed his ...
White students in Australia rejecting "multicultural" agenda, this is a problem apparently
2015-09-01 0:03
According to Dr Christina Ho from Sydney’s University of Technology, White Students have not obeyed the command to become “multicultural”. White Students have very rarely mixed with non-White groups, and Dr Ho thinks that this is a problem which must be solved. “Schools are becoming more segregated in terms of both class and ethnicity,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “More and more ...
Sweden: The De-balling of the Vikings
2015-08-31 23:03
For some reason, the deliberately-injected moral and mental cancer known as 'liberalism', aka 'progressivism' has always seemed to metastasize faster in the Nordic countries, particularly Scandinavian ones. This phenomenon is also observable among the American descendants of Scandinavian immigrants in places like Minnesota and Wisconsin. The hypothesis of this reporter is that the innate, perhaps even genetic, altruism and human ...
New Monsanto Spray Kills Bugs by Messing With Their Genes
2015-08-31 22:49
In a fascinating long piece in MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado examines the genetically modified seed industry's latest blockbuster app in development—one that has nothing to do with seeds. Instead, it involves the industry's other bread-and-butter product: pesticide sprays. But we're not talking about the poisonous chemicals you convinced your dad to stop dousing the lawn with. The novel sprays ...
Obama to speak with Jewish groups on Iran deal
2015-08-31 22:16
President Barack Obama is using a Friday webcast to try to allay concerns from Jewish communities about the nuclear agreement with Iran. Obama will deliver remarks about the agreement and take questions from participants. The webcast is being organized by two major Jewish organizations that have held similar events with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The Israeli ...
More News »