It’s late January 2019, and the crew of the R/V Petrel sends one of its remotely controlled vehicles almost 17,700 feet down into the frigid depths of the South Pacific. And the researchers have chosen this spot carefully; after extensive investigations, they believe that they’ve finally uncovered the U.S.S. Hornet’s watery resting place. But are they about to confirm their theory? The drone continues to dive, and the team waits with baited breath to see if they’re about to strike gold.
There’s a reason why the Petrel’s crew are so keen to unearth this particular craft. You see, the U.S.S. Hornet has a fascinating history – and she’s had her fair share of adventure. Originally built as a Yorktown Class U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, Hornet was the seventh ship to go by that name. Construction of the vessel began in September 1939 – a little more than three weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, but before the U.S. had entered the conflict.
With the specter of war still a faint blur on the horizon, the talented ship builders of the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company set about constructing Hornet at Newport News, Virginia. The craft was subsequently launched on December 14, 1940, and she was commissioned ten months later. Captain Marc Mitscher – an experienced Navy hand with 21 years of service under his belt – first took command of Hornet at the Naval Operating Base in Norfolk, VA.