Top 10 Worst Shark Attacks in the World
Most people have a weird fascination with shark attacks and love hearing about them. But, they are relatively rare. Statistically, you are far more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to become a victim of a shark attack. Of course, these attacks can be avoided completely if you stay out of the water because these big fish have never come on land to attack people.
All shark attacks are horrible, so how do you decide which ones are worse than others? I have decided to concentrate on incidents where large volumes of people have lost their lives, mainly through being shipwrecked.
Can you think of anything worse that treading water, miles from land, while sharks are circling around you. It must be horrifying to watch your friends, family, or comrades being ripped to pieces one by one, knowing that your turn is coming, and that there is absolutely nothing you can do.
Here are the worst ever recorded shark attacks in the world.
On average, 400 people per year get struck by lightning, according to the NOAA website, and 58 of those are fatal.
Only 60 people on average are attacked by sharks each year, and the death rate is about 10.
1. USS Indianapolis 1945: 879 Fatalities
On July 30, 1945, the US cruiser Indianapolis was directed to sail from Guam to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to join the battleship USS Idaho in preparation for the invasion of Japan. She had just delivered the world's first atomic bomb to the Island of Tinian 4 days earlier. Midway between Guam and Leyte, she was torpedoed by an I-48 Japanese submarine and sank within minutes.
There were 1,196 military personnel on board, and 900 made it into the water wearing life-jackets. As dawn broke the next day, shoals of sharks appeared and started attacking the sailors. It was almost 5 days later before they were spotted and rescued, and even as rescuers were pulling the men onboard, sharks were attacking them.
All together, nearly 600 men lost their lives to what is believed to be oceanic whitetip sharks. Only 317 of the crew survived.
You can read more about it at USSIndianapolis.org
2. Cape San Juan 1943: 825 Fatalities
On the 12th of November, 1943, the Cape San Juan, a 6711-ton US freighter and troop transport ship, was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine, I-21 in the Pacific Ocean near the Fiji Islands. The ship was sailing from San Francisco to Townsville, Australia, ladened with 49 crew, 41 gunners, and 1,348 US army troops on board, making a total of 1438 people.
130 of them were killed either when the torpedo struck or immediately afterwards when they jumped overboard into the water and drowned. 483 survivors were plucked from the seas by rescue ships and planes. It was reported that sharks were attacking the survivors even as the rescuers were trying to pull them out of the water. 695 people died trying to fight off sharks (most likely oceanic whitetips).
In total, 825 people lost their lives.
3. Nova Scotia, South Africa: 750 Fatalities
On November 28th, 1942, the British troopship Nova Scotia was torpedoed by a U boat 50km off Cape St. Lucia, South Africa. 750 troops perished — about a quarter of them taken by oceanic whitetip sharks. Only 192 survived.
The Nova Scotia had been ferrying back and forth from Durban up the east coast of Africa to the Suez Canal. She was torpedoed by a German U boat 177 while carrying 134 British and South African guards, 650 Italian POWs, and 118 crew on board. The ship sank just 7 minutes after the Germans fired 3 torpedoes, throwing the survivors into the shark-infested waters where they had to desperately cling onto any flotsam they could.
The German U-boat surfaced to try to discover what ship they had hit (it was dark) and were greeted with mayhem; hundreds of men were floundering in the water and screaming for help. Having received no orders to help, the Germans instead took two men from the water for intelligence reports, then dived away, leaving the rest to drown or be eaten by sharks.
The next day, another ship, the Alfonso de Albuquerque, came to their rescue, but many were already dead. They safely plucked 190 from the water.
Later, two survivors turned up on the shore, having floated on a raft without food or water for two weeks.
MV Doña Paz Disaster: 4375 Fatalities
I was unsure where to place the Doña Paz disaster in the list of the 10 worst sharks attacks in the world because despite the huge death toll, the vast majority of victims burned to death. However, over 300 bodies were later recovered from the seas covered in shark bites, so there was a huge shark involvement too.
On December 20th, 1987, the MV Doña Paz collided with oil tanker MT Vector while en route from Leyte Island to Manila in the Philippines. Both ships burst into flames after the Vector's cargo ignited. Within 4 hours, both ships had sunk.
It was an incredible 8 hours before the authorities learned of the accident, and another 8 before aid was sent to the stricken area. Subsequent investigations revealed that the life-jackets were in a locked cupboard. Neither ships had radio or flares to send out distress signals. Furthermore, the MV Doña Paz was enormously overloaded. Originally designed to carry just 608 passengers, she was "stuffed to the gunnels" with at least 3000-4000 passengers, well over the official ship's manifest of 1,500. Couple that with the oil tanker having an expired license and untrained crew, the meeting of those two ships was a maritime disaster waiting to happen. It was discovered that an apprentice crew member was in charge of the bridge when the accident occurred and the trained officers were either drunk or watching TV.
After the explosion, those not caught in the blast had to flee for their lives by jumping overboard into the shark-infested waters of the Tablas Strait. Many burned in the waters, which by this time was also alight.
There were only 26 survivors: 24 passengers from the ferry and 2 members of crew from the oil tanker.
5. HMS Birkenhead, 1852: 440 Fatalities
On the 26th of February, 1852, HMS Birkenhead sank after striking an uncharted submerged rock off Danger Point, South Africa.
On board were 643 people, mainly British and Irish soldiers and some of their wives and children. On their long journey from Portsmouth, England they had stopped at Simonstown, near Cape Town, to pick up fresh supplies. Most of the women and children left the ship, as did several sick soldiers. They picked up 9 cavalry horses at Simonstown, and on February 25, left on the final leg of their journey to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with around 630 people on board.
In the early hours of the morning, tragedy struck when the ship hit a rock. Water flooded into the forward compartment of the lower troop deck, drowning at least 100 soldiers in their hammocks as they slept. The Captain, Robert Salmond, ordered evacuation of the ship, but only 5 of the ship's 7 lifeboats could be floated. The two larger boats each capable of carrying 150 men were swamped and unusable.
Without being asked, the soldiers all stood in line, allowing the women and children to enter the working lifeboats. The expression "women and children first" originated from this selfless act. The bravery of these soldiers set a new maritime disaster protocol, even though the term was not until 8 years later in 1860.
As the ship sank, the soldiers (and horses) were thrown into the sea, 3 miles from land and in the middle of the night. 8 horses and 193 people survived this disaster. The rest were taken by sharks as they tried to swim to shore.
6. Italian Liner Principessa Maldafa, 1926: 295 Fatalities
On October 25th, 1927, the luxury Italian cruise liner Principessa Maldafa sank 90 miles off the coast of Albrohos Island while heading to Porto Seguro, Brazil.
Many of its 971 passengers were Italian emigrants on their way to start a new life in Brazil and Argentina. The tragedy was caused when a propeller shaft broke, allowing a huge amount of sea water into the engine room. The sudden inrush of cold water caused boilers to explode.
Despite being fatally crippled, the Principessa Maldafa stayed afloat for another 4 hours allowing other ships in the area to come to her aid. Many passengers and crew were safely plucked from both the waters and the lifeboats. But, those who feared another explosion abandoned ship. Many lost their lives to sharks that quickly appeared in the seas around the stricken ship. When the ship finally went down, only the captain remained on board.
Out of a total 1256 people, 295 people died.
7. Pig Basket Atrocities: 200 Fatalities
In 1942 in Indonesia, 200 captured allied soldiers were squeezed into 3-foot-long bamboo pig baskets in Surabaya, East Java. The baskets were then loaded onto trucks and driven to the railway station where they were loaded onto open goods wagons.
From there, the soldiers were transported to the coast. Half-dead from thirst and heatstroke, they were loaded onto boats that sailed out to shark-infested waters where they were thrown overboard to be eaten alive.
The commander in chief of the Japanese forces in Java was later court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years in jail by an Australian military court for his part in what became known as the "Pig Basket Atrocities."
8. Two Ships Collide in Singapore, 1909: 101 Fatalities
On November 14, 1909, the French steamer La Seyne collided with British India Steamship Co. liner Onda in Rhio Strait, Rhio Archipelago, near Singapore, 26 miles from land. Thick fog had prevented either ship from seeing each other. The smaller French vessel sank within 2 minutes of the collision.
The crew of the Onda rescued just 61 passengers and crew from the stricken 1,142-ton steamer. Many of the survivors were badly mauled by the huge shoal of sharks that circled them in the water.
A total of 101 people died by shark attack, including the French skipper, Joseph Coulailhac.
9. Cheribon Atrocity 1945: 90 Fatalities
In July 1945, in Northern Java, off Cheribon, 90 European civilians, mostly women and children, were taken at dusk out to sea on the deck of a Japanese submarine.When it was well off-shore and in deep waters (just at the time of day when sharks like feeding best), the submarine suddenly dived, leaving her passengers to drown and/or be eaten by sharks in the water.
There was one sole survivor who told his tale to fishermen who rescued him, but he died shortly afterwards from his injuries. The sharks had taken off his arm and a foot.
The fishermen duly reported this atrocity as a war crime after the war was over, but neither the submarine nor the commanders responsible were ever investigated. They went unpunished because the Japanese destroyed all documents.
10. HMS Valerian, Bermuda: 88 Fatalities
In 1926, British Naval ship HMS Valerian capsized in a hurricane in Stag's Channel, 5 miles off Dockyard, Bermuda. As the sailors hung on the life rafts for dear life, sharks pulled some of them off and into the water, where they were bitten and chewed in a shark feeding frenzy. 88 crew members died in the heavy seas, most of them from shark attacks.
Rescue boats managed to pull just 20 survivors from the waters.