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

Amid Russia tensions, US nuclear bombers to conduct military drills in Sweden
2015-05-28 4:23
The Pentagon is planning to send nuclear bombers to Sweden for a military exercise next month amid growing tensions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis. The warplanes, the B-52 Stratofortress, will participate in a naval exercise on June 13, Swedish general Karl Engelbrektson said. They are set to fly from the United States nonstop and simulate a drop of anti-ship mines near ...
'Netanyahu to US: Give 50% more money, we'll shut up'
2015-05-28 4:55
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asking the United States to provide Tel Aviv 50 percent more money for weapons and “we’ll shut up” on Iran nuclear talks, an author and investigative journalist in Philadelphia says. Dave Lindorff made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday while commenting on a report which says Israel has asked Washington ...
Britain To Outlaw "Hate" and "Extremism"
2015-05-28 1:53
UK home secretary Theresa May : "But what we're talking about is they key values that underline our society and are being undermined by the extremists. Values like democracy, a belief in democracy, a belief in the rule of law. A belief in tolerance ...eh... for other people. Equality and acceptance for other people's faith and religions. One of the great ...
Killer robots will leave humans 'utterly defenceless' warns professor
2015-05-28 1:08
Robots, called LAWS – lethal autonomous weapons systems – will be able to kill without human intervention. Killer robots which are being developed by the US military ‘will leave humans utterly defenceless‘, an academic has warned. Two programmes commissioned by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are seeking to create drones which can track and kill targets even when ...
Here's how much corporations paid US senators to fast-track the TPP bill
2015-05-28 1:21
Critics of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership are unlikely to be silenced by an analysis of the flood of money it took to push the pact over its latest hurdle. A decade in the making, the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its climax and as Congress hotly debates the biggest trade deal in a generation, its backers have turned on the ...
More News »