Submersible completes dive to deepest discovered shipwreck

The US Navy Fletcher-class destroyer USS Johnston in 1943 (Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command)

An expedition privately funded and executed by two former US Navy Officers has successfully re-located, surveyed, and filmed the wreckage of USS Johnston, the world’s deepest known shipwreck that principally lies at a depth of 6,456 metres, undersea expedition company Caladan Oceanic said in a press release dated March 31.

The funder of the expedition, Victor Vescovo, is a former US Navy commander who personally piloted his submersible Limiting Factor down to the wreck during two separate, eight-hour dives, constituting the deepest wreck dives, manned or unmanned, in history.

Johnston was a World War II-era US Navy Fletcher-class destroyer that sank during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the eastern Philippines on October 25, 1944, widely cited as the largest naval battle in history.

The wreck, the deepest shipwreck ever located, was originally discovered in 2019 by the research vessel Petrel under the leadership of renowned ocean wreck explorer Robert Kraft. On that expedition, film of pieces of the vessel were taken by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), but the majority of the wreck including its upright, intact forward two-thirds including bow, bridge, and mid-section lay deeper than the ROV’s rated depth limit of approximately 6,000 metres.

It has now been discovered that Johnston‘s hull number 557 is clearly visible on both sides of its bow and two full gun turrets, twin torpedo racks, and multiple gun mounts are still in place and visible on the superstructure.

No human remains or clothing were seen at any point during the dives and nothing was taken from the wreck, Caladan Oceanic added.

The submersible was able to conduct a thorough survey of the wreck to verify its identity, construct a map of its layout, and obtain high-definition imagery that can be used by naval historians.

Following their earlier discovery of the wreck, Petrel‘s crew were initially unsure whether it was that of Johnston or USS Hoel, another Fletcher-class destroyer that was sunk by gunfire from Japanese battleships and cruisers in the same area on the same date.

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