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Horrific True Story Behind The Deadliest Shark Attack In History

Horrific True Story Behind The Deadliest Shark Attack In History

Dozens of men were killed in the 1945 tragedy

Claire Reid

Claire Reid

Although shark attacks are thankfully fairly rare - the story of the most deadly shark attack in history is enough to have you vowing never to enter the ocean ever again.

The USS Indianapolis was out on the Pacific in July 1945, where it was tasked with taking vital components of the first ever operational atomic bomb to a naval base on the island of Tinian.

But while making its way to meet the USS Idaho on 30 July, the vessel was hit by two Japanese torpedoes.

The torpedoes split the ship in half and it was sunk within just 12 minutes - tragically, of the 1,196 men aboard, fewer than 900 made it into the water alive.

And this was just the beginning of their ordeal, because those survivors would go on to find themselves in the deadliest shark attack in history.

As the survivors huddled together in groups and searched for lifejackets and rafts to help ensure their survival, a group of sharks - alerted by the explosions and thrashing around of the crew - swarmed the area.

Oceanic whitetip sharks are known to be an aggressive species of the fish and are thought to be responsible for most of the attacks during the incident.

Although initially focussing on the floating dead, it wasn't long before the sharks began to go after the survivors, who were becoming tired after spending hours in the water.

Before the ship had sank, crew members had sent out several SOS messages to the US Navy, but help was not immediately sent out and no ship was sent to the scene to look for survivors.

Navy veterans James Jarvis, left, and Wilmer Jacoby. Jarvis survived the sinking and Jacoby was aboard one of the rescue ships.

With a rescue mission not forthcoming, the men attempted to stay together, but despite their best efforts men would get separated from their groups and float away where the others would 'hear their screams' as the sharks indulged in a feeding frenzy.

Horrifically, this went on for days - with more and more men being picked off and eaten by the sharks.

Alongside the shark attacks, the men were struggling to survive without water and some died of thirst before they could be rescued.

It was four days before the men were spotted by chance when a pilot flew over the area and raised the alarm.

A nearby US Navy vessel was able to come to the rescue and with the help of a plane, the remaining survivors were taken from the water to safety.

Tragically, from a total of 1,196 men just 317 survived the incident, with an estimate from the Smithsonian suggesting between a 'few dozen to almost 150' men were killed by sharks.

The disaster went on to inspire one the most memorable scenes from Steven Spielberg's Jaws, where shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) gives a monologue about surviving the USS Indianapolis catastrophe, describing how 'the sharks came cruisin''.

Proof, if needed, that reality can be even more terrifying than fiction.

Featured Image Credit: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Topics: Sharks, Interesting