Research Team Explores Airship Wreck


The science team aboard Nautilus, a research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, recently explored the wreckage of the USS Macon, an aircraft-carrier dirigible operated by the U.S. Navy that crashed off the coast of California and sank in 1935. The researchers used remotely operated vehicles to explore the remains of the airship and the four Sparrowhawk biplanes it carried. The Macon, which was the last lighter-than-air aircraft carrier used by the Navy, was on its way back from a mission when it ran into stormy weather. A tail fin was sheared off the ship, and the crew was unable to maintain control. Two crewmen were lost, but 74 others survived.

The scientists took 360-degree video of one of the biplanes, and measured the corroded parts of one airplane wing. They also measured how much sediment had built up since the 1935 crash. The ROV also retrieved a piece of an aluminum girder for research use. The team’s data will be compared with data collected in a 2006 expedition to help determine how fast the wreck is corroding. “We’re really extending the life of this airship and her biplanes and documenting the past 80 years she spent underwater, which is the majority of her life,” said NOAA archaeologist Megan Lickliter-Mundon, during the live broadcast.