Paul Allen Expedition Team Locates Historic Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet in South Pacific

uss hornet cv 8
USS Hornet illustration courtesy U.S. Navy

A team of explorers on board Paul Allen’s research vessel has located the wreck of the USS Hornet (CV 8), one of the most important aircraft carriers of World War II which sank after playing a shortlived but pivotal role in the war in the Pacific.

The finding was announced Tuesday on Paul Allen’s website, adding to a growing list of historically significant shipwrecks discovered using the late billionaire’s 250-foot RV Petrel.

The wreckage of the USS Hornet was discovered in late January 2019 resting on the floor of the South Pacific at a depth of 5,330 meters, or nearly 17,500 feet.

The USS Hornet played a pivotal role in some of the most important battles in WWII naval history, including the Doolittle Raid and the Battle of Midway. Despite her victories, however, Hornet’s lifespan was short-lived as she was sunk at the hands of Japanese bombers and torpedoes during the Battle of Santa Cruz on Oct. 27, 1942, just 372 days she was put into service. 140 sailors from her crew of nearly 2,200 were killed in the battle.

petrel research vessel
Photo credit: Paul Allen

The 10-person expedition team on onboard the Petrel was able to locate the Hornet’s position by piecing together historical data that including official deck logs and action reports from other ships. Positions and sightings from nine other U.S. warships in the area were plotted on a chart to generate the starting point for the search grid.

The Hornet was discovered on the first dive mission of the Petrel’s autonomous underwater vehicle and confirmed by video from a remotely operated vehicle.

“We had the Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan. “Paul Allen was particularly interested in aircraft carriers so this was a discovery that honors his memory.”

The discovery of the USS Hornet was made during Petrel’s first mission of 2019. It is is the first discovery announced since the death of Allen in October 2018. 

Over the past several years, the crew of the RV Petrel has been dedicated to locating and documenting mostly WWII shipwrecks of historical significance. Past discoveries have included the USS Indianapolis and the IJN Musashi, among nearly 20 others.