SEATTLE (WISH) — An expedition crew has found the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 70 years after its sinking in 1945.
The 13-person crew of the Research Vessel Petrel, led by philanthropist Paul G. Allen, located the World War II cruiser 5,500 meters — that’s nearly 3.5 miles — below the water’s surface, according to a Saturday release from the U.S. Navy.
A Japanese submarine torpedoed the USS Indianapolis on the morning of July 30, 1945, sinking the ship with 1,196 sailors and Marines aboard. The ship is said to have sunk within 12 minutes, with around 800 sailors and Marines surviving initially but with no time to use life-saving provisions or send a distress signal. A combination of dehydration, exposure, drowning and shark attacks over the four to five days spent in the open water led to more deaths, with 316 surviving the incident.
Last month, seven survivors convened in Indianapolis to honor those who lost their lives, as well as to view a new documentary about the incident.
“I never thought I’d see this day come! I’m glad it was found,” Dick Thelen, a 90-year-old USS Indianapolis survivor and vice chairman of the Survivors’ Organization said upon hearing the news, according to a release from the survivors group.
Before the ship was fired on, it had completed a secret mission delivering components of the atomic bomb that would be used in Hiroshima, leading up to the end of the war in the Pacific.
While other expeditions have sought to discover the USS Indianapolis, those involved with the Petrel expedition say a combination of technology, research and new information uncovered in 2016 about a possible location for the ship helped make their exploration a success.
According to the release, the team has planned to survey the full wreckage site and conduct a live tour in coming weeks. The U.S. Navy has also said crews will not disturb the site, but rather treat the sunken ship as a war grave.