Microsoft's Co-Founder Finds WWII Ship Lost for 76 Years

Vulcan, YouTube
Vulcan, YouTube

An incalculable number of ships remain lost to history after circumstances—or enemy fire—prompted them to sink to the bottom of the ocean. While all of them carry stories of the crew, ships downed during World War II often have particularly poignant legacies. Thanks to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, we now have a geological marker for a ship that harbored one of the greater tragedies of American soldiers in World War II, as Gizmodo reports.

Allen's Vulcan, Inc. shipwreck exploration team recently announced they've located the USS Juneau, a cruiser downed during the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. The ship was discovered 2.6 miles below the surface off the coast of the Solomon Islands.

The Juneau was remarkable in World War II history for having five brothers, the Sullivans from Iowa, stationed there simultaneously, a decision that could prove disastrous if tragedy struck—and in the case of the Juneau, it did. All five insisted they wouldn't serve in the Navy unless they could serve together. All were killed and 682 other sailors perished when the ship went down after Japanese forces launched two torpedoes through it.

Allen's team located the ship via a research vessel dubbed Petrel that performed a sonar scan of South Pacific waters. A remote-controlled vehicle made visual confirmation of the wreck shortly thereafter.

Allen and his team have no current plans to disclose the exact location of the ship so it can remain in the water in peace. His crew made headlines in August 2017 when they located the USS Indianapolis, a famous wartime wreck that saw the surviving members of the crew preyed upon by sharks. The story was dramatized by the character of Quint (Robert Shaw) in a well-known scene from 1975's Jaws.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Laser Scans Detect Hidden Buildings and Tunnels Beneath Alcatraz Prison

iStock.com/f8grapher
iStock.com/f8grapher

Isolated in the San Francisco Bay and surrounded by steep cliff faces, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary seemed like the most secure place to keep dangerous criminals in the mid-20th century. But it's recently come to light that every inmate on Alcatraz Island lived above a series of potential escape routes that predated the prison's construction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a new study published in the journal Near Surface Geophysics, archaeologists reported their discovery of structures and artifacts beneath the Alcatraz prison yard, including underground buildings, tunnels, and ammunition magazines. Guided by historical maps, documents, and photographs, they used laser scanning technology and ground-penetrating radar to locate the subterranean fortress close to the surface.

The site dates back to the mid-19th century, when Alcatraz Island was used for military purposes. The same natural features that would later make Alcatraz an appealing prison also made it an ideal coastal fortification. Enough brick buildings were built there to house 200 soldiers and enough food was shipped in to feed them for four months.

But the fortification wasn't used for its original purpose for very long. It was transformed into the West Coast's official military prison during the Civil War, and in the 1930s, the government turned it into a federal prison. Instead of tearing down the forts and tunnels leftover from its military days, workers left them intact and built over them to save money. Archaeologists plan to investigate the underground structures further without disturbing the historic site.

Alcatraz Prison closed in 1963, so the underground tunnels no longer pose a security problem. Today the island is part of the U.S. National Park Service and is a popular tourist attraction.

[h/t San Fransisco Chronicle]

The Site Where Julius Caesar Was Assassinated Will Open to the Public in 2021

iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina
iStock.com/Largo di Torre Argentina

Besides being a sanctuary for stray cats, Largo di Torre Argentina in Rome is best known as the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed 22 times by assassins in 44 BCE. As the city's oldest open-air square, the spot is an important piece of Roman history, but it's fallen into disrepair. Now, Condé Nast Traveler reports that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen to the public following a $1.1 million restoration project.

The site includes four ancient temples, a medieval brick tower, and the ruins of the senate house where Caesar was murdered. About 20 feet below street level, it was excavated under the rule of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, and has remained largely closed to the public since. Today, Largo di Torre Argentina is overgrown and accessible only to the feral cats that live there.

On Monday, February 25, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi announced that Largo di Torre Argentina will reopen in the second half of 2021. To get the site ready for the public, the city will add restrooms, install lights, and build walkways that allow visitors to explore the area. Stone ruins, some of which are stacked into piles, will be secured, and artifacts currently sitting in storage will be moved to a museum. The one area the project will avoid is the corner where the cat sanctuary is located.

Rome, of course, is filled with ancient ruins—some that residents weren't even aware of until recently. In 2014, a 2000-year-old Roman road was unearthed during the construction of a McDonald's.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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