I heard of this story on an episode of QI (series M, episode “Military Matters”). It is supplemented by Jeremy Clay’s article for the BBC.
In 1890, a British ship called the Margaret was delivering animals from Durban, South Africa, to a zoo in Boston. The cargo included 400 cockatoos, 12 snakes, 2 crocodiles, an assortment of monkeys and parrots, a gorilla, and an orangutan.
It was a bit of a Murphy’s Law trip, and the first thing to go wrong was that the rats on the ship ate all of the grain, which was intended to feed the cockatoos. With no food left, all the cockatoos died. I imagine they had quite a large quantity of grain for a several-week trip for 400 birds, so my question is how many rats are on your ship?
Then the ship ran into a storm which, for some reason, enabled all the snakes and crocodiles to escape. The crew, understandably terrified, hid in their cabins. I don’t know how they were planning on steering the ship, but thankfully (?) the snakes and crocodiles fought each other to the death.
Or, rather, during the struggle the crocodiles killed all of the snakes, while the snakes only managed to kill one of the crocodiles. So the last crocodile had total reign of the ship . . . until it was killed in an accident by falling cargo. Question two: is NOTHING secure on this ship?
The crew reclaimed the ship, only to have all of the monkeys escape and overrun the ship’s rigging. While they were partying it up, the ship ran into another storm, which swept most of the monkeys out to sea, drowning them.
Then the gorilla got out, because of course it did. “Having obtained possession of an iron bar, he commanded all objects within 10 feet of where he was chained,” reported the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette. “With this formidable truncheon he threatened to brain every sailor who came within range. The cook one day unwarily approaching heard the bar whistling through the air and ducked, but not in time to save his head, which was half scalped.”
Stunned by the blow, the cook was then seized by the gorilla which “would doubtless have throttled him had not a sailor come up with a hatchet and stunned the monster“.
At this point, is it just an issue of you guys not providing adequate safety measures to secure your cargo, or is this just the most insane bad luck anyone’s ever had?
By the time the ship reached Boston, they only had eight animals to deliver: the gorilla, three monkeys, and four parrots.