In a ghostly reminder of the Bay Area’s nuclear heritage, scientists announced Thursday they have captured the first clear images of a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay.
The USS Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. The Navy deliberately sunk the contaminated ship in 1951 south of the Farallon Islands.
The rediscovery of the USS Independence offers a fascinating glimpse into American military history and raises old questions about the safety of the Farallon Islands Radioactive Waste Dump — a vast region overlapping what is now a marine sanctuary where the federal government dumped nearly 48,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste between 1946 and 1970.
The expedition to locate and survey the Independence was led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with help from the Navy and Boeing, which mapped the wreck last month using a robotic underwater vehicle equipped with cutting-edge sonar capable of producing three-dimensional images.