Mistakes are uncalled for. We all make them, intentionally or unintentionally, and many of them hurt our wallets more than anything else. Yet sometimes, a combination of incorrect actions can lead to large-scale consequences. Over the years, the prices paid for some of the errors have been colossal, resulting in millions or even billions of dollars worth of damage. The cost of these historical mistakes could have wiped out just about anyone’s bank account.
1. China’s tower block collapse.
China has an astounding population of 1.379 billion people. With the population increasing at a fast rate, the cost of life is also ever expanding. Most of the people choose to live in apartment complexes, sharing rooms with other families in an effort to reduce rent. In 2012, at Shanghai’s Lotus Riverside complex, a newly built 13-story residential building collapsed, killing one worker. Construction companies are overlooking safety standards in an effort to make some quick bucks, resulting in devastation. The fall was caused by a faulty foundation and caused a considerable amount of damage to nearby buildings with an estimated value of $264 per square foot. After the incident, the investors demanded their money back.
2. The lost bitcoin fortune.
Who doesn’t wish to be rich? To be able to afford anything in this world? Of course we all dream of that. James Howells, an IT worker from Newport, achieved that dream with a few investments in the Bitcoin market. Howells invested on Bitcoins during its early years and it turned out to be a fruitful investment. The Welsh IT worker has likely lost a lot of sleep over his collection of 7,500 bitcoins, which grew to be worth $85,125,000 (£63,284,463). There was only one problem. Howells accidentally threw away his hard drive containing the 7,500 bitcoins in 2013. Today, he’s still searching for his long lost drive which he believes is buried in a landfill site.
3. Apple’s third founder.
There are over 90 million iPhone users in the United States. It’s no surprise that we all opt for Apple products due to their reliability. Apple, Inc. was founded on April 1, 1976, in Cupertino, CA, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. Owning 10 percent of the most profitable company in the world sounds like a money-making dream. But the third co-founder of Apple, Ronald Wayne, knows what it’s like to watch that opportunity slip away. In 1976, after spending a mere 12 days with Wozniak and Jobs, Wayne had his name taken off the contract and sold his shares back to his co-founders for only $800. Today, a 10 percent stake in Apple would be worth more than $80 billion. That kind of fortune would have made Wayne one of the richest men in the world.
4. The Mars climate orbiter.
The $327.6 million satellite was supposed to be the first weather observer on another planet. The launch was perfect and the satellite reached the orbit. Everything seemed to be going as planned until it approached the red planet on September 23, 1999, when the orbiter suddenly vanished. Scientists realized quickly that it was gone for good. A NASA review board found that the problem wasn’t a mechanical one but rather a human error. The teams tasked with navigating the orbiter used two different measurement systems while calculating trajectories—one team used metric, while the other used imperial. Whoops indeed!
5. The millennium bridge.
The Millennium Bridge was officially opened by the Queen on June 10, 2000, two months later than originally planned. Two days later, on June 12, 2000, it was closed again. Reason? The engineers didn’t realize that the bridge’s heavy foot traffic would cause it to sway back and forth. The issue required an additional $6.6 million—on top of the $24.1 million already spent. It then reopened – this time for good – on February 27, 2002.
6. $225 million lost because of a misprint.
The Japanese company Mizuho Securities wanted to sell one share for ¥610,000 (about $5,000) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The broker who was entering information into the system, however, didn’t pay attention and made a little mistake; costing the company millions in damages. The broker meant to sell one share for 610,000 yen (£2,893; $5,065) but instead put up 610,000 shares for only ¥1 each. The company only realized the mistake after the data went public and people started purchasing shares. They protested to stop the shares from being sold but the Stock Exchange denied their request, which resulted in the loss of $225M.
7. The sale of Alaska.
In what might have been one of the worst deals in the history of trade deals, in 1867, Russia dumped the territory of Alaska on the United States for the low price of $7.2 million. The vast territory was sold by Alexander II of Russia since he regarded Alaska only as an ice-covered land. 50 years after the sale took place, Americans discovered quite a bit of gold in the Last Frontier, and the Klondike Gold Rush started, making the U.S. territory worth more than 100 times the original purchasing price. Russia won little from this deal but lost natural resources worth billions of dollars.
8. A skyscraper that melts cars.
On May 2014, a new London skyscraper dubbed the “Walkie-Talkie” was opened. The building was designed to reflect light 100 percent in order to reduce heat, saving the company some money in air conditioning. The building, however, reflected sunlight so well that cars parked in front of it started melting; literally. The 37-story skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch Street has become nothing but a giant mirror. Some enthusiasts even fried eggs to show how well it reflects light. In order to prevent damages to cars or even human beings, sun protection was attached to the building.
9. The leaked lake.
On the morning of Thursday, November 20, 1980, a Wilson Brothers Corp. rig was drilling for Texaco in Lake Peigneur, Louisiana, when the drilling assembly became stuck around 1228 ft. Soon after that, the drilling rig started tilting, which prompted the workers to abandon their stations and move to shore since they feared that the rig was stuck on unstable ground. Their fears became reality in a few hours when the drilling rig collapsed and disappeared into the shallow lake. The drill had damaged the dome of a salt mine beneath Lake Peigneur, causing a whirlpool to be formed, sucking in the rig, 11 barges, a tugboat, trucks and even an island. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
10. France’s fat trains
In 2014, the French train company SNCF wanted to modernize the railway transportation systems and ordered 2,000 new trains for €15 billion. The trains were made according to the calculations provided but when they arrived, the company realized that the stations were smaller that expected, since the measurements were taken almost 30 years prior and were outdated. The only solution was to extend the station’s platforms, costing them an additional €50 million.
11. Kurt Russell destroys a guitar.
In the 2015 Quentin Tarantino movie The Hateful Eight, Kurt Russell’s character destroys a guitar. What no one told him is the fact that the guitar was actually an authentic, priceless instrument from the 1870’s, loaned by the Pennsylvania museum for the movie. Russell’s dedication to acting ended up destroying a centuries old artifact.
12. Sinking of the Vasa.
Sweden launched Vasa, a new warship built between 1626 and 1628. The flagship of the 17th-century Swedish navy didn’t even manage to leave Stockholm’s bay and sank right after leaving the shipyard. The vessel only made it 4,000 feet before a strong gust of wind submerged it. Vasa sank in front of horrified onlookers, claiming 30 lives. The remains of the ship can be found today in Stockholm’s Vasa Museum.