This Is the First Archeological Survey of the USS Independence, Pride of WWII Aircraft Carriers

by Owen James Burke


“After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes,” said James Delgado, chief scientist of the Independence mission. The ship lies almost perfectly upright, only slightly listing to starboard. Image: NOAA

An ongoing mandate to locate and assess the condition of some 300 shipwrecks within California’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, the U.S. Navy, and some unspecified private business partners have surveyed the USS Independence, the United States’ lead light aircraft ship during World War II. The Independence was stationed on the central and western Pacific stage during the war, and was one of over 90 vessels present during “Operation Crossroads,” the famous series of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests which took place off Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the summer of 1946.

She went on to survive the Bikini Atoll tests, but was critically damaged and so, along with many other vessels left in similar condition, returned to San Francisco for the U.S. Navy to conduct a series of studies on nuclear-related contamination.

By 1951, it appeared imminent that she would founder. The Navy towed her out to 2,600 feet and scuttled the iconic aircraft carrier in January of that year. She remains the deepest (known) shipwreck in the Gulf of the Farallones.

“This ship fought a long, hard war in the Pacific and after the war was subjected to two atomic blasts that ripped through the ship,” muses chief scientist James Delgado. “It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the “greatest generation’ that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war.”

Packing a 3D imaging system, an 18.5-foot-long autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Echo Ranger scanned 150 above the rusting deck of the USS Independence and compiled the complete image you see above, including an inset of what appears to be an aircraft in the hangar bay (toward the bow).

Read more at NOAA –OJB

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