Deadliest shark attack in history saw 150 picked off by beasts after ship sunk

Shark attacks are rare – but there was one terrifying incident that cost the lives of 150 military men.

The year was 1945 and the USS Indianapolis was out on patrol in the Pacific after being tasked with delivering vital parts of the first functional atomic bomb to a naval base on the island of Tinian.

But the ship never made it to its destination – it was sunk by two Japanese torpedoes.

The vessel capsized within 12 minutes and tragically fewer than 900 of the 1,196 men aboard made it into the water alive.

The survivors faced a far deadlier challenge as they attempted to reach the shore as a group of sharks that had been alarmed by the explosions infested the waters surrounding them.

Although initially focussing on the floating dead, it wasn't long before the sharks began to go after the survivors, who were exhausted after spending hours in the water waiting for a response to their ship's SOS call.

The men attempted to stay together, but some would get separated from their groups and float away.

The others could allegedly 'hear their screams' as the sharks indulged in a feeding frenzy that lasted for four days.

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

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

Eventually, the men were spotted by chance when a pilot flew over the area and raised the alarm for a nearby US Navy vessel was able to come to the rescue and with the help of a plane.

Horrifically, just 317 of the 900 who escaped the sunken ship survived the incident.

Among those who survived was Jim Jarvis who lived to be 98 as he died in 2020.

In a previous interview, Jarvis told author Sara Vladic that “I never gave up. I figured, well, somebody will find us. They finally did.”

It is believed that the sea beasts were responsible for around 150 deaths.

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

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