The Underwater Airship

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Nov 9, 2005
The military zeppelin USS Macon was meant to be a floating American aircraft carrier over the Pacific Ocean -- but it crashed, sank and has been lying on the ocean floor for more than 70 years. Now scientists have discovered and documented the unique wreck off the coast of California.
The tragedy unfolded unusually slowly for an aviation catastrophe: The crew fought to control the USS Macon for more than an hour. US naval officers threw fuel canisters overboard in an attempt to reduce the weight of their vessel. The canisters imploded on their way to the ocean floor. Meanwhile, the Macon -- the largest rigid airship ever constructed in the United States -- sank inexorably downward, the safety of the Moffett Field hangar just within reach.
The Macon hit the water surface only five kilometers (three miles) off the Californian coast, along the latitude of the Point Sur lighthouse near Monterey, on Feb. 12, 1935. The zeppelin broke apart and sank into the deep water. Two of the 83 crew members died -- the low number of deaths is likely due to the fact that the Macon sank in slow motion.
Neither enemy fire nor sabotage was to blame for the giant airship's doom (and a giant it was: longer than three 747 jets parked nose to tail). A heavy storm above the picturesque stretch of Californian coast known as Big Sur tore off the Macon's vertical tail fin. The airship's structural framework was so badly damaged that the Macon broke apart when it hit the water.

More: Uncovering the USS Macon: The Underwater Airship - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

picture 1- The USS Macon flying over New York harbor in 1933.

picture 2- The wing and cockpit of one of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes that went down with the USS Macon. The tube at lower right was a telescopic gun site. Just above the cockpit is the frame for the "sky-hook" that allowed the biplane pilot to dock with a trapeze hanging beneath the belly of the USS Macon.


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