A torpedo sent the USS Kailua to a watery grave off the coast of Oahu in 1946. Nearly seven decades later, a small submersible vehicle last year discovered the surprisingly intact "ghost" ship, the University of Hawaii announced Friday. The former cable ship Dickenson was instrumental in Pacific communications after first launching in 1923 and was later chartered by the US Navy and renamed the USS Kailua during World War II. After its WWII service, neither the Navy nor the ship's owner wanted it, and the decision was made to sink the USS Kailua as a target; the location where it went down wasn't noted. It's now been found nearly half a mile below the surface of the ocean roughly 20 miles off the coast of Oahu.
The upper deck was surprisingly preserved with no signs of torpedo damage, say researchers, and the ship number, IX-71, was still visible on the ship's bow, making the discovery easy to identify, reports LiveScience. It's "like a museum exhibit resting in the darkness, reminding us of these specific elements of Pacific history," says one researcher. The find isn't entirely unique: The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces submersibles, along with sonar surveys of the area's sea floor, have led to several important wrecks, including a Japanese midget submarine sunk at the start of the attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as two massive aircraft carrier submarines. (Divers found a shipwreck earlier this year that dates back more than 2,000 years.)