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USS Macon Expedition

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The Underwater Discovery of the USS Macon

In June of 1990, Chris Grech from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) coordinated with the U.S. Navy’s three-man deep submergence vehicle (DSV) Sea Cliff, to locate and document the Macon’s remains. During the dives Sea Cliff recovered several artifacts from the site, and collected a definitive image of a Sparrowhawk arrester hook.

Sparrowhawks underwater
Top: A Sparrowhawk biplane from wreck of USS Macon. Bottom: Close-up view of the front of a Sparrowhawk biplane. (Photo: MBARI)
MBARI returned to the site in February and April of 1991 and videotaped the site using a remotely operated vehicle.  The team located debris fields that included corroded girders, gasoline tanks, the nose-mounted mooring assembly, and the dirigible’s German-made Maybach engines. The control car was also located.  Although it was flattened, MBARI was able to record windows, chairs, chart tables, and a lead pencil. Four of the Curtis F9C-2 Sparrowhawk biplanes were also located revealing their aluminum frames along with some deteriorated wing fabric still intact.  The 1990/91 surveys recorded the bow and mid-section debris fields. During these survey missions MBARI worked with the Navy to collect and distribute artifacts including the arrester hook from a Sparrowhawk. This artifact was conserved at East Carolina University.

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