While up to 43% of Americans are financing their vehicles, the United States has recently been putting its own funds into its Naval vehicles. More specifically, Naval leaders have been developing submarines with quieter technology, new sensors, and new acoustics.
However, despite this advancing development in Naval technology, it wasn’t a US Navy AUV that recently discovered a famous warship sunk 72 years ago, but an AUV belonging to tech corporation Microsoft.
Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen was harmlessly investigating the floor of the Philippine Sea with a Research Vessel Petrel when his team discovered the remains of a World War II warship. But not just any warship — The USS Indianapolis.
Launched in 1931, the USS Indianapolis had been one of the few to escape the Battle of Pearl Harbor. It was also the ship to deliver the components for the first atomic bomb from San Francisco to Tinian Island in July 1945. The bomb would later be dropped on Hiroshima on August 6.
It was after the USS Indianapolis delivered the uranium components to Tinian Island that the ship was targeted by Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58, commanded by Mochitsura Hashimoto. According to News Atlas, the submarine fired two Type 95 torpedoes on the warship as it headed from Tinian Island to the Philippines on the morning of July 30.
The attack killed 396 sailors and sank the warship in 12 minutes. The ship’s remaining 800 soldiers were left exposed to the elements in open sea. Without time to send a distress signal or deploy lifesaving equipment, only 316 soldiers remained alive by the time rescue arrived.
According to BBC News, the extremely high death toll caused by exposure, lack of fresh water, and the largest shark attack in recorded history, is what makes the USS Indianapolis possibly the worst sea disaster in the history of the US Navy.
Attempts have been made to find the US warship over the course of the last 70 years, but none have been successful until now. The advanced technology of Allen’s Petrel is one of the key reasons why.
According to News Atlas, the Petrel used a Hydroid REMUS 6000 AUV to survey the area. The AUV is not only capable of investigating underwater for 20 hours, but it can also use a deep-water side scan sonar with high-definition video cameras, underwater navigation systems, sonars, and LED lights, which have a life-expectancy of up to 34 years.
“To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role during World War II is truly humbling,” said Allen.
The Petrel is continuing to survey the shipwreck and plans to arrange for a live tour of the ship in a matter of weeks. However, the location of the ship won’t be divulged to the public; the site is the property of the US Navy and now an official war grave.
Photo: Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives