The American southwest is in the midst a catastrophic drought.
It’s so bad, in fact, that it’s caused Lake Mead — a massive oasis in the middle of Majove Desert, formed by the Hoover Dam — to recede to the lowest levels ever seen. As of June, water levels were 154-feet below normal.
For the adventurous few, the lower water level is a chance to get closer to history than ever before — up close and personal with a B-29 bomber that has sat on the lake bed for over 70 years.
The B-29 'Superfortress' was the workhorse of World War Two, but this particular plane didn't make it to the Pacific Theatre, or even out of Nevada ...
In 1948, while on a secret mission high above the Mojave Desert, this B-29 crashed with five crew members on board, all of whom survived. The plane didn't fare as well.
Today, over 70 years later, the plane remains untouched on the bottom of Lake Mead. Thanks to falling water levels, it's becoming easier to find and explore.
According to the accident report, the plane had climbed to 30,000 feet before descending to perform a 'minimum altitude test.' It then struck the water, ripping off three of its four engines.
In 2007, the National Park Service chose Tech Diving Limited, an Arizona-based company that specialises in shipwrecks and dives in fragile environments, to lead dives to the site.
'We are the only company that has a permit to dive the B-29,' Vice President Joel Silverstein told Business Insider. But swimming around an antique warplane takes knowledge, caution and expertise.
'It is a protected site, and we try to keep is as intact as possible,' said Silverstein. 'It's in a fairly remote location that requires a lot of logistics to get to.'
When military officials documented the crash, they noted the depth as about 400 feet, as well as its trajectory before sinking.
For around $400, experienced divers can explore the plane, which sits in about 105 feet of water -- almost 300 feet shallower than when it was first submerged on July 21, 1948.
Because Lake Mead doesn't have strong currents like the ocean, Silverstein explains, 'the plane looks almost exactly like it did when it sank.' Here's video of divers exploring the wreckage:
(video provider='youtube' id='n-oBRVRCKsA' size='xlarge' align='center')
We've reached out to the U.S. Air Force for comment on the plane's original mission, and will update this post if more information is received about the B-29.