The wreck of the USS Saratoga is one of the world’s most legendary dive sites and if you’re a die-hard diving enthusiast or a fan of underwater exploration this is one place you’ll want to check out.
Unlike many other wrecks, the reason the Saratoga sank beneath the sea in the first place isn’t due to battle, equipment malfunction, or an accident – it’s because it was deliberately blown up by the US Navy, who owned it in the first place!
The sinking of the Saratoga occurred as part of the famous 1946 Operation Crossroads nuclear tests, including the Able and Baker blasts which made local residents nuclear refugees in their own country. Two rounds of plutonium implosion weapons, the type of nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki were used in tests that sank 95 other vessels, with each explosion producing 23 kilotons of TNT!
Though the first blast, Able, caused a fire on the Saratoga’s flight deck, it was the 2nd, Baker, that finally sank the ship, which was affected by radioactive contamination for years after. In recent years, the Saratoga and its surroundings has reemerged as a viable dive site once again, attracting divers and underwater adventure seekers from across the globe.
The Saratoga currently rests in stunning Bikini Atoll, in the Republic of Marshall Islands, a ring-shaped coral reef that contains 23 small islands. Originally built in the 1920’s, the aircraft carrier now rests at the bottom of the Pacific ocean – but once it played a vital part in WWII, alongside other important military operations, such as the Korean War.
Before it was eventually sunk by the US, the USS Saratoga had already been through the mill several times over. The ship was not only torpedoed by a Japanese submarine after the Pearl Harbour attack in Hawaii, it played a vital role in the Battle of Iwo Jima in Southern Japan!
The waters of Bikini Atoll where the Saratoga rests are incredibly rich in diverse marine life, with amazing ocean landscapes, giving those who dare dive there an underwater adventure that’s hard to beat. Because the wreck’s location isn’t too deep, it’s become a popular and accessible spot for many recreational divers from all over the world.
Marine life has thrived in and around the Saratoga, due in large part to the fact that the ship has been below the surface for decades. As a result, the wreckage has become something of an artificial coral reef, with a vibrant ecosystem, numerous fish species – and even sharks! The reef sharks that inhabit the waters around the ship aren’t particularly aggressive to humans – but they will still attack if they feel threatened, so divers should take care not to provoke them.
If you dive the Saratoga’s remains, then along with several kinds of fish like snappers, barracudas and reef sharks, you’ll spot colourful corals, sea anemones and sea sponges. It’s no wonder that this iconic spot is the Bikini Atoll’s signature diving site, as the diversity of sea life surrounding the ship is simply breathtaking.
The sheer size of the USS Saratoga offers divers magnificent views all by itself, as the carrier is over 880 feet long. Divers can explore the many cavernous hangar bays, complex passageways, or can swim through the spacious flight deck to get a taste of the ship’s former glory days. It’s definitely one dive spot that will inspire you to capture what you see on camera and this site provides many eye-opening, unique opportunities for underwater videography or photography.
Though it’s located not too far beneath the surface of the ocean, at depths of between 50-190 feet you’ll need a certain amount of diving experience to explore the USS Saratoga’s remains. If you have the skills required to dive there though, you’ll access a prime piece of maritime history, viewing gun turrets and the remains of aircraft used in battle, as well as damage from the nuclear blast that finally sank the ship.