This Sunken Ship Near the Golden Gate Bridge Looks Exactly How You'd Expect on Sonar

Just sitting there in the deep.
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NOAA

Underneath the Golden Gate Bridge lies the wreck of the City of Chester, a steamboat that sank on August 22, 1890 at 10 a.m. 

The boat was impaled on the steamer Oceanic, arriving from Asia, and sunk in six minutes. It traveled to the seafloor and settled in, still upright. 

Two years later, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey thought they'd located the ship by dragging a wire through the water with a tugboat. But for the last 120 years or so, no one has thought much of the City of Chester, not even when the Golden Gate Bridge went up just to the ocean side of the wreck. 

But recently, a NOAA team got interested and deployed all the technological might we can now bring to bear. 

"After working with historic data provided by NOAA historians, the Coast Survey team conducted a multi-beam sonar survey and a sonar target the right size and shape was found," NOAA reported. "The team spent nearly nine months sorting through the data. A follow-up side-scan sonar survey confirmed that the target was City of Chester, sitting upright, shrouded in mud, 216 feet deep at the edge of a small undersea shoal. High-resolution sonar imagery clearly defined the hull, rising some 18 feet from the seabed, and the fatal gash on the vessel’s port side."

And what's amazing is that if you look at that boat now sitting at the bottom of the Bay, you can still make out the old form of the boat as it was when it plied the waters. 

The current position of the City of Chester (NOAA).

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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