The men flew out of their naval base at 6 AM for the daily tour of the Pacific. Two hours later, Cody radioed the control tower to say they were investigating an oil slick, a common enough sight in the area. Just fifteen minutes later, the tower tried to make contact with the blimp, but got no response. Two search planes were immediately set out to investigate the situation.
At 10:30, a commercial plane reported seeing the blimp near the Golden Gate Bridge. Ten minutes after that, one of the search planes saw the airship briefly rise over the low-hanging fog, only to disappear back into the clouds. At 10:45, observers on the land saw the blimp drift in and hit the beach. Two fishermen tried grabbing the tie lines, but the blimp tugged itself from their grasp and it soared back into the sky. The men later reported that the gondola door was open, and no one was aboard.
The blimp soon hit a cliff overhanging the beach, tearing a small hole in it. The slowly-deflating airship finally sank to earth on a street in Daly City, a residential area just outside San Francisco.
In short, everything on the blimp was as it should be, except for its pilots.
The inquiry held into the mystery revealed that two fishing boats, a Coast Guard patrol ship, and a Navy ship were all in the vicinity of the oil slick Cody said they would investigate. These witnesses saw the blimp circling the slick at an altitude of about three hundred feet, after which it suddenly shot upwards into the fog. That was the last they saw of the airship.
That was also the last anyone ever saw of the two airmen. Although the bright yellow lifejackets naval rules required they wear during all flights would have made their bodies easily visible to rescuers, days of intensive search on land and sea never discovered the slightest trace of them.
To date, no one has managed to find an even remotely plausible explanation for their sudden disappearance. There were no signs of any enemy submarines in the area. If the men had somehow been careless enough to tumble out of the gondola by accident, the many eyewitnesses in the area would surely have seen them fall into the ocean, while the life jackets would have kept them afloat long enough to be rescued.
It seems absurd to state that during a routine flight close to shore, these two highly capable pilots suddenly dematerialized, but, from all the evidence, it is difficult to know what else to say about the matter.