The greatest shark attack in history
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express article, 11 August 2013


Exactly four years ago a shark killed a young man in front of my home in Glentana. A wooden cross on the dune stands as lonely reminder to the tragedy. I felt sad as I watched some boys pass that cross today, carefree, young and happy with their surfboards under their arms.


Strangely, this coincides with an event that has been on my mind for several days now. Nearly the same time, in 1945 the American cruiser USS Indianapolis was struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The flaming ship went down in only 12 minutes, just days before the end of WWII. Of 1,196 men aboard, 300 went down with her. Most of the remaining 900 were not that lucky. First to perish were the badly burnt and injured. But then came the sharks. Hundreds of sharks that were attracted by the screams, the thrashing, and most of all – the scent of blood and death. For the next three days and four nights the sharks systematically ate the frightened survivors that were floating in a forgotten ocean. Their average age was only 19. When the nearly dead survivors were finally spotted by a passing plane, only 321 men were still alive.


In 1990 the Captain of the submarine who sank the Indianapolis met what was left of these survivors. “I came here to pray with you for your shipmates whose deaths I caused,” he told them. To this, one of the old sailors, Giles McCoy, replied: “I forgive you…”


23 years later the captain’s body was found with a revolver in one hand, and a toy sailor in the other. He never overcame the trauma of the biggest loss of life in US naval history. The Indianapolis had been on her way back from having delivered the world’s first atomic bomb…

Image: “The USS Indianapolis Underway in 1939”., Wikipedia, under Wikimedia Commons repository.