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The 10 Greatest Understatements In History

In the face of dramatic events or even death, people tend to lose control and explode simple situations. But then there are others who stay calm even in critical situations. Their statements in the face of these situations are some of the greatest understatements ever recorded in history. Here are 10 examples:

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1. The Problem 

Houston, we've had a problem
Image source: wikipedia

Apollo 13 was scheduled to be the third lunar landing. An oxygen tank exploded while the crew was about 200,000 miles away from earth. (Source)

2. The encounter 

Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
Image Source: www.imgur.com

This was said by Welsh journalist and explorer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley. He was searching for Dr. Livingstone, a missionary and explorer in Central Africa and when he spotted him among the Ujiji villagers, he asked, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” (Source)

3. The ship has a problem 

something is wrong with our bloody ships
Image Source: www.imgur.com

This was said in the Battle of Jutland, a naval battle fought by the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet against the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet, during the First World War. David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, was the commander of the 1st Battle cruiser Squadron. When two of his ships exploded, his comment was: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” (Source)

4. The surrender 

the war in the pacific
Image Source: www.imgur.com

Emperor Hirohito read out the imperial rescript on the termination of war. He announced to the Japanese people that the Japan government was surrendering to the end of World War II. The speech was broadcast after the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima on August 15, 1945. The speech read in part, “Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.” (Source)

5. A major malfunction 

a major malfunction
Image Source: www.imgur.com

This was said by public affairs officer Steve Nesbit, during the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster that occurred on Jan 28th 1986. “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction. “ This was however an understatement because the spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean. (Source)

6. The mess-up 

the mess up
Image Source: www.buzzfed.com

Jeffrey Dahmer was a well known notorious and grotesque serial killer in America. He killed 17 young men and had also turned to cannibalism. After getting caught, he told his father “I really messed up this time.” (Source)

7. We have a small problem 

we have a small problem
Image Source: www.imgur.com

Boeing 747 was being flown by Captain Eric Moddy when it flew into a cloud of dust spewed out by an eruption of Mount Galunggung, 110 miles south east of Jakarta. The oxygen masks dropped when the plane steepened its decent and the captain had to tell the passengers they were having a problem: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are all doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.
The plane did finally land safely in Jakarta. (Source)

Also See: These Fascinating Photos Show An Interesting Side Of History You Didn’t Know About

8. The stroll 

I am just going outside
Image Source: www.buzzfed.com

This was said by Antarctic explorer, Laurence Oates. He was among the five men who tried to return home from an ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912. He is remembered for his act of self sacrifice when, after realizing that his ill health was slowing down his companions, walked from his tent into a blizzard so as to increase their chances of survival. Before he exited the tent he uttered the words: “I am just going outside and may be some time.” (Source)

9. Things are pretty sticky 

things are a bit sticky
Image Source: www.buzzfed.com

At the height of the Korean War, 650 British fighting men were deployed to block the traditional invasion route to Seoul. American Major Gen Robert H Soule asked the British brigadier, Thomas Brodie, “How are the Glosters doing?” The brigadier, who was schooled in British understatement, replied: “A bit sticky, things are pretty sticky down there.

To the Americans, this did not sound like a desperate situation and so the general did not send any reinforcements or withdraw them.(Source 1, 2)

10. The tight corner 

we are in a very tight corner
Image Source: www.buzzfed.com

Robert Scott wrote a letter to his wife Kathleen shortly before he perished on his ill fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912. “Dearest darling — we are in a very tight corner and I have doubts of pulling through.(Source)

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