The Mystery of the Submerged Remains of the USS Macon
The exact location of the submerged remains of the USS Macon remained a mystery for nearly fifty years until a commercial fisherman snagged a piece of girder from the Macon in his net. The girder was displayed in a Moss Landing seafood restaurant on a plaque presented to the restaurant owners by the fisherman who had recovered the piece. Marie Wiley Ross noticed the girder structure. She had seen airship girders like this one as a child with her father, Lt. Comdr. Herbert V. Wiley, who commanded the Macon. Wiley, who was in command of the airship at the time of its loss, had also survived the loss of the USS Akron, the Macon’s sister-ship. Scientists were unaware of Marie’s discovery until 1989.
In 1988 the first attempt to locate the Macon using sides-can sonar proved she was not lying at her recorded sinking location. This initial effort spawned the interests of Dick Sands of the National Museum of Naval Aviation Foundation in Pensacola, Florida as well as David Packard, founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). They asked Chris Grech, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilot for MBARI, who participated in the search for the Macon in 1988, to head up another expedition to the site.
Control room for the ROV Tiburon, on board the Western Flyer. On the far left sit the pilot and copilot of the ROV. In the middle sits the chief scientist for the dive. On the right sits the video annotation technician. Monitors above show video from the ROV, as well as position information sonar, and vessel controls. (Photo: M. Leet/ MBARI)
During the 1989 exploration to locate the Macon led by Grech and MBARI, Gordon Wiley (Marie Wiley’s brother, also the son of Herbert V. Wiley who commanded the Macon) mentioned that girder from the Macon was mounted on a wall in a Moss Landing restaurant.
Grech and Dick Sands were able to follow up on this new lead through a month long investigation tracing the roots of origin of the Macon artifact on display at the restaurant. This sleuth work revealed the Macon’s actual location.