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The Rebirth of the “Mighty-I”

Happy Halloween! This is the true, spooky tale of life, death, and rebirth beneath the waves. To end off OceanBites’ haunting Halloween theme week, read the story of USS Independence – an aircraft carrier that participated in atomic bomb trials at Bikini Atoll.

Figure 1: Historical and projected radiocarbon content of the atmosphere. 14C spiked around 1960 due to nuclear weapons testing, and has been drifting back toward the baseline as the excess 14C works its way into the ocean, plants, and soils. The trajectory of radiocarbon content for the rest of the century depends on fossil fuel emission scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways; RCPs). With aggressive action to limit CO2 emissions, atmospheric radiocarbon will only “age” by a hundred years or so (green line) but under “business as usual” policy, it will be appear over 2000 years old by 2100 (grey line), severely limiting the dating of younger materials. From Graves 2015.

How we broke radiocarbon dating

CO2 from fossil fuel burning doesn’t contain C-14. That’s bad news for the future of radiocarbon dating.

The original citing of the wreck was in 1982. This picture is a section of a plank with iron nails.

Wrecked in New Zealand

There are well document reports recording the exploration of New Zealand and the South Pacific Ocean by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642 and British Captain James Cook in 1768. During the 125 years between these two voyages, however, there is speculation that there may have been additional explorers who visited the area. In 1982 a ship wreck was noted near Kaipara Harbor on the west coast of Northland in Northern New Zealand. Further investigation of recorded history and analysis of radiocarbon ages have led investigators to believe they may be examining the oldest known New Zealand shipwreck and a piece of evidence that suggests additional exploration of New Zealand by the Dutch after Tasman.

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