A fascinating piece of World War II history has been found 30 miles off the coast of northern California. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Boeing teamed up to locate the USS Independence, an aircraft carrier that saw action in the war and then became a nuclear lab rat of sorts, reports NBC News. The Navy scuttled the ship itself, and the search team used 3D sonar to discover it "amazingly intact" on the ocean floor in the Gulf of the Farallones—maybe even with a plane on top. After its military service from 1943-45, the Independence joined a flotilla of ships that was deliberately blasted with radiation in nuclear tests in the Bikini Atoll. The Navy then brought it to a shipyard San Francisco to study how it fared, before towing it out to sea in 1951 and sinking it.
"This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says the NOAA's James Delgado. Indeed, buried with it are hundreds of drums of radioactive material sealed in concrete, reports the San Jose Mercury News, which notes that the find has renewed concerns about the vast amount of nuclear waste dumped near the Farallon Islands decades ago. The area overlaps a marine sanctuary. (The sub that mapped the wreck was tested, and no abnormalities were found in terms of radiation levels.) One benefit of the mission: Ships with fuel and oil sit on the ocean floor around the world, posing environmental risks, and this survey should help shed light on how they deteriorate over time, reports Wired. (Read more World War II stories.)