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Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Macon Expedition

Maritime Heritage Program Macon Expedition

Wreck of Airship USS Macon Added to National Register of Historic Places

See historic footage of the USS Macon and underwater video of the airship wreck site in this short video. (QuickTime, 2:25 minutes)

Hotel Christopher

The port wing of a Sparrowhawk biplane (top) and a desk drawer (bottom), remnants of the USS Macon. Wreckage of the airship is located at a depth of 1,500 feet within the boundaries of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The wreck site of the USS Macon, located on the seafloor within Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, is now part of the National Register of Historic Places. The designation commemorates the 75th anniversary of the loss of the U.S. Navy airship.

The Macon, a 785-foot dirigible, was one of the largest airships in the world – comparable in size to the RMS Titanic. It was intended to serve as a scout ship for the Pacific Fleet and had the ability to launch and recover Sparrowhawk biplanes. In service less than two years, the Macon, based at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, Calif., was damaged in a storm on Feb. 12, 1935, and sank in the Pacific Ocean off Point Sur, south of San Francisco. All but two of the Macon's 83 crewmen were rescued by nearby Navy ships.

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's official list of cultural places considered worth preserving. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the National Register can qualify for federal grants for historic preservation.

The wreckage of the Macon and four aircraft lie at a depth of more than 1,500 feet and were first documented in 1990 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary conducted a sonar survey in 2005 followed by the first archaeological expedition in 2006 that documented the Macon's remains. The expedition was a collaborative venture involving NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA's Preserve America Initiative, MBARI, Stanford University, University of New Hampshire, U.S. Navy, Monterey Maritime and History Museum and the Moffett Field Historical Society and Museum.

The Macon wreck is the second site in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to be included on the National Register. The wreck of the California Gold Rush side-wheel steamship Tennessee was listed in 1981.