The Day a U.S. Navy Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier Almost Sunk Off California

Steve Weintz
By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Josh Kinter - This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 051103-N-7748K-001 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still

Steve Weintz


It almost happened in 1985.

The Day a U.S. Navy Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier Almost Sunk Off California

The drowned island tore a sixty-foot-long gash in the side of the Enterprise’s torpedo-resistant hull. Three of the four giant propellers were totaled and the port keel gone.

Spend some time with Google Earth, an atlas or a globe and you will see that California, for peoples used to the Atlantic, was indeed the far side of the world well into the nineteenth century. What is now one of the most populated, navalized coastlines on Earth remained poorly known even to mariners.

(This first appeared in 2015.)

Somehow such mystery lingers, for once the world’s most powerful warship nearly wrecked herself upon a drowned island one hundred miles west of San Diego. Chris Dixon, who masterfully chronicled the origin of giant-wave surfing in his 2011 book Ghost Wave, surfaced this sea story of the USS Enterprise’s 1985 encounter with the Cortes Bank, where rock, water and wind collide to form sea monsters.

(RecommendedIs It Time to Bring Back the Battleships?)

The Channel Islands of Southern California make up the visible heights of a vast submerged mountainous region nearly the size of the Sierra Nevada—the Southern California Borderland. Reaching from Point Conception to the north coast of Baja California and stretching hundreds of miles out to sea, the Borderland forms a huge landscape of peaks, ridges and basins up to a mile deep.

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