In January, media reports surfaced about an angry hippopotamus chasing a boat down the Chobe River in Botswana after the boat encroached a bit too closely on what the hippo felt was its territory. Now, to be clear, having a hippo chase you is a heck of a lot different than, say, a manatee. The average size of a hippo is about 3,000 pounds, and the name is from the ancient Greek meaning “river horse.” These big boys can move, as is evident in the video of the high-speed hippo chase. Given its size, that hippo had a good chance of capsizing that boat.


All of which got us to thinking, of course, about what might be an even more unusual way to capsize a boat. As always, the animal kingdom—including humans—offers lots of weird possibilities.

1) A 230-Pound Tuna. The year was 2013, the scene just off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. A 54-year-old man had battled the Ahi for about an hour from his 14-foot boat. He had the fish aboard, but then he gaffed it in the eye. The fish dove back into the water with the line wrapped around the man’s ankle. He went overboard, and the boat capsized. By the time the U.S. Coast Guard arrived, the man was gasping for air and vomiting, clinging to the capsized vessel. He survived with one heck of a fish story.

2) Naked Women. As the saying goes, they do everything bigger in Texas. That’s apparently the case at Hippie Hole, the state’s only nude beach, because the view in 2004 caused about 60 people (mostly men, we assume) to rush to one side of a party boat for a better view. The captain rain upstairs to tell them to distribute their weight more evenly, but he was too late, and the boat capsized in about 40 feet of water. Two people suffered minor injuries. Presumably, the sunbathers had the jiggly belly laugh of their life.

3) Giant Jellyfish. The Diasan Shinsho-maru was a serious fishing trawler, a 10-ton bluewater boat dragging nets just as she was built to do. On this day in 2009, though, the three-man crew came up against something they didn’t expect: dozens of Nomura’s jellyfish weighing as much as 440 pounds each and measuring as much as 6 feet wide. The jellyfish got caught in the nets and capsized the vessel, hurling the three fishermen into the sea. All were rescued by another trawler.

4) The Legend of William Bligh. This wasn’t an actual capsize, but a near one in 2010, when four sailors on a 25-foot launch were trying to trace the path of Capt. William Bligh. A wave smashed the ship and water poured over the starboard side as the mast began to sink. At least one of the sailors clung to the side of the ship as fate, and fate alone, began to right her. Gear was lost and an expensive Iridium satphone went into the deep, but the sailors think that just maybe the ghost of their predecessor saved them. “Someone is looking over us,” one sailor wrote on his blog. “Just maybe it is Bligh. He would want us to get to the end, I am sure.”

navy flip ship

The US Navy's "FLIP" ship in action. Who says capsizing has to be an accident? Photo courtesy of the US Navy.



5) The U.S. Navy. It’s not often that sailors try to capsize their vessel intentionally, but that’s what the U.S. Navy is doing with FLIP, which stands for Floating Instrument Platform. Developed for scientific experiments by the Marine Physical Laboratory at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, the 355-foot-long FLIP is built to go vertical by filling its stern section with water and hoisting its bow area into the air. Crewmen stand on the outside decks, which become bulwarks (and vice versa) as the FLIP does its thing. Furniture is built twice in one place, so one section or the other is always in a usable position.

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