Skip to main content
Move the World.
USS Nevada

Lead image courtesy of SEARCH Inc. / Ocean Infinity

In 1948, the USS Nevada — a battleship once deemed "unsinkable" — plunged beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, deliberately scuttled by one of the U.S. military's own torpedoes.

Some 70 years later, maritime archaeology firm SEARCH Inc. teamed up with seabed exploration company Ocean Infinity to hunt down the legendary ship's wreckage.

On May 11, they announced that they'd found the historic ship — and had stunning images of the wreckage to share with the world.

Tracking Down the USS Nevada

Working only off of eyewitness accounts of the USS Nevada's sinking, Ocean Infinity narrowed the ship's final resting place down to an area covering 100 square miles.

Using an untethered autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), the crew of the company's Pacific Constructor managed to locate the wreckage 65 nautical miles southwest of Pearl Harbor.

The battleship was more than 15,400 feet below the water's surface — almost three miles deep — but the depth wasn't a problem for Ocean Infinity: its AUV is capable of operating at a depth of nearly 20,000 feet.

After they located the USS Nevada, Ocean Infinity's researchers sent a remotely operated vehicle down to take photos of the wreckage, transmitting the pictures in real time to SEARCH's office in Florida for analysis.

"We are proud to have participated in this historic mission, which provides a tangible example of how technology can magnify the potential for discovery," James Pochurek, SEARCH's president, said in a statement.

A Historic Battleship

The U.S. Navy launched the USS Nevada in 1914, and over the course of the next 34 years, the ship became one of the most legendary vessels in U.S. military history.

It was deployed during World War I, and after the war ended, it served as part of the fleet that escorted president Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference.

During the Japanese military's attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Nevada was one of eight battleships bombed, and after being repaired, it later participated in the Normandy Invasion (D-Day).

USS Nevada

The USS Nevada off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. on September 17, 1944. Credit: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History and Heritage Command

After its decommissioning in 1946, the USS Nevada was used as a target for the U.S.'s Bikini Atoll atomic testing experiments, during which it survived two nearby atomic bomb attacks.

In 1948, the ship became a target for gunnery practice, and when four days of that wasn't enough to sink it, the U.S. military resorted to using an aerial torpedo.

That's the story, anyways — based on SEARCH's initial analysis of the wreckage images, Senior Vice President James Delgado told National Geographic he thinks it might have taken two torpedoes, not one, to sink the unsinkable battleship.

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

Up Next

Below the Surface
The Fleet of Underwater Drones Probing Earth’s Interior
underwater drones
Below the Surface
The Fleet of Underwater Drones Probing Earth’s Interior
The Earth’s interior may be the last wild frontier, but not for long. These underwater drones are scanning the ocean to create a 3D model of its internal dynamics.

The Earth’s interior may be the last wild frontier, but not for long. These underwater drones are scanning the ocean to create a 3D model of its internal dynamics.

Seachange
Ship’s Logbooks Are the First Records of Climate Change Data
Ship’s Logbooks Are the First Records of Climate Change Data
Seachange
Ship’s Logbooks Are the First Records of Climate Change Data
With the weather and ice data from old ship’s logs, Dr. Kevin Wood realized it was possible to reconstruct the history of sea ice in the Arctic to better understand climate change.

With the weather and ice data from old ship’s logs, Dr. Kevin Wood realized it was possible to reconstruct the history of sea ice in the Arctic to better understand climate change.

Below the Surface
Removing Water From Underwater Photography
Removing Water From Underwater Photography
Below the Surface
Removing Water From Underwater Photography
A new algorithm for underwater photography makes marine life appear as clear as it would on land, and it’s helping scientists understand the ocean better.

A new algorithm for underwater photography makes marine life appear as clear as it would on land, and it’s helping scientists understand the ocean better.

How Drones are Changing Disaster Relief
How Drones are Changing Disaster Relief
Watch Now
How Drones are Changing Disaster Relief
As Hurricane Florence hits, here's a look at how drones are changing disaster relief.
Watch Now

Drone technology is fundamentally changing the way we respond to natural disasters. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, rescue teams used drones extensively to map and triage affected areas, while utility and cellular providers used them to inspect damage and prioritize repairs. Cheap to operate and with the ability to cover widespread areas, drones are changing the game when it comes to cleaning up disaster zones. ...

Climate Change
The Hidden History in the Notre Dame Attic
notre dame attic
Climate Change
The Hidden History in the Notre Dame Attic
Studying the scarce, centuries-old logs that remain from the Notre Dame attic will help scientists reconstruct medieval climate data to see if temperatures were ever this high.

Studying the scarce, centuries-old logs that remain from the Notre Dame attic will help scientists reconstruct medieval climate data to see if temperatures were ever this high.

Uprising
Tree-Planting Drones Restore Charred Forests
tree-planting drones
Uprising
Tree-Planting Drones Restore Charred Forests
This Seattle startup is bringing new life to charred forests by releasing swarms of smart, tree-planting drones equipped with seeds, mini seedbeds, and cameras.

This Seattle startup is bringing new life to charred forests by releasing swarms of smart, tree-planting drones equipped with seeds, mini seedbeds, and cameras.

Robotics
Pocket-Sized Bot Can Perform Surgery Better Than Humans
surgical robot
Robotics
Pocket-Sized Bot Can Perform Surgery Better Than Humans
A tiny origami-inspired robot assists surgeons in a mock surgery.

A tiny origami-inspired robot assists surgeons in a mock surgery.

Medical Innovation
Experts Are 3D Printing Coronavirus Supplies for Hospitals
coronavirus supplies
Medical Innovation
Experts Are 3D Printing Coronavirus Supplies for Hospitals
After an Italian firm 3D printed in-demand coronavirus supplies for a hospital, others in the community were inspired to offer their own help.

After an Italian firm 3D printed in-demand coronavirus supplies for a hospital, others in the community were inspired to offer their own help.

Mental Health
New PTSD Therapy Dulls the Sting of Painful Memories
New PTSD Therapy Dulls the Sting of Painful Memories
Mental Health
New PTSD Therapy Dulls the Sting of Painful Memories
A Canadian researcher’s reconsolidation therapy is helping people overcome PTSD by allowing them to edit painful memories to be less emotionally impactful.

A Canadian researcher’s reconsolidation therapy is helping people overcome PTSD by allowing them to edit painful memories to be less emotionally impactful.