Murder by Shark
On 25 February 1852, the HMS Birkenhead left Simon’s Town in South Africa. She had 643 people on board including a few women and children. Stashed in her hull were 17 crates of gold and silver. She made good time, but several hours of her journey were unaccounted for. Strange lights on shore caught the attention of those on duty. At two-o-clock in the morning, she struck an uncharted rock, just over three kilometres offshore. Chaos erupted as people scrambled for her eight lifeboats. Only three of them were functional. Many drowned, but others became the victims of marauding sharks that gorged themselves on the human prey. We investigate which sharks were responsible for the carnage and whether these hunters of the deep were unwitting accomplices in a perfect murder. Hundred and fifty years later several salvage efforts delivered none of the 4½ tons of gold and silver that she had on board. Was the ship was steered deliberately into the pinnacle to hide the fact that her treasure was stolen? Was this the perfect murder, a Murder by Shark?