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USS Independence gets a First Look after 65 years buried at Sea

thumb_2_USS Independence Under the sea-600.jpg

USS Independence gets a First Look after 65 years buried at Sea

E/V Nautilus to Dive on Wreck of USS Independence

Viewers can watch the exploration of the wreck site LIVE online at and ask scientists questions during the dive. 

Beginning Monday AUG 22, the expedition ship E/V Nautilus will conduct a cruise to study the cultural heritage and natural wildlife in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) and adjacent sanctuary waters. Recently expanded to protect 3,295 square miles, GFNMS contains over 400 shipwrecks and is largely unexplored in the deepest portions. 

On AUG 22 E/V Nautilus will conduct the first visual survey of the USS Independence, a World War II era naval ship and former aircraft carrier, once used in the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. Independence was scuttled offshore of San Francisco in 1951, rediscovered as the deepest shipwreck in local sanctuary waters. It was acoustically (sonar) mapped by NOAA in 2015 using autonomous underwater vehicles. Nautilus will also image the ship for photomosaic (will not be immediately available) and microbathymetry data.

USS Independence at sea in World War IIResting in 2,600 feet of water off California's Farallon Islands, the carrier is "amazingly intact," say NOAA scientists, with its hull and flight deck clearly visible, and what appears to be a plane in the carrier's hangar bay. 

Independence (CVL 22) operated in the central and western Pacific from November 1943 through August 1945 and later was one of more than 90 vessels assembled as a target fleet for the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests in 1946. Damaged by shock waves, heat and radiation, Independence survived the Bikini Atoll tests and, like dozens of other Operation Crossroads ships, returned to the United States. 

While moored at San Francisco's Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Independence was the primary focus of the Navy's studies on decontamination until age and the possibility of its sinking led the Navy to tow the blast-damaged carrier to sea for scuttling on Jan. 26, 1951. 

While in GFNMS, an additional goal of the cruise will be to characterize habitat of deep sea coral and sponges. These zones will be prioritized for future research as they serve as sentinel sites for ocean acidification monitoring and identification of impacts within an upwelling region. The expedition will collect biological samples of deep-sea corals and sponges and associated species for species identification and growth rate studies. This expedition will contribute to the baseline understanding of fish, deep-sea coral and rocky substrate communities within marine sanctuary waters. In addition to documenting and mapping the wreck, scientists will document how fish and marine invertebrates have colonized and now utilize it as habitat, as opposed to natural seafloor features. 

More information can be found here, and in the attached fact sheet from our partners at NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The E/V Nautilus is the research platform supporting this project. The ship is equipped with a dynamic positioning system, an EM302 multibeam sonar mapping system, and handling systems for the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations. The Hercules/Argus ROV system, owned operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, will be used to dive on targets, collect high definition video footage, and collect geological, water, and biological samples. The visual survey of the USS Independence site will stream live video and interaction with the science team via the Nautilus Live website ( 

USS Independence sonar scan




Instagram: @NautilusLive

Hashtag: #NautilusLive

USS Independence Website (NOAA):

NOAA Marine Sanctuaries on Social Media

Twitter (@sanctuaries), and Instagram (@noaasanctuaries)

Hashtag: #USSIndependence

Photo and video will be uploaded here both prior to the dive and during the dive with stills and video highlights: