WWII destroyer located by Paul Allen’s research vessel is deepest shipwreck ever discovered

Wreckage of what is believed to be the USS Johnston, as shown in a deep-sea video released by Vulcan Inc.’s R/V Petrel. (Vulcan screen grab)

The late Paul Allen’s ship-hunting team aboard the Research Vessel Petrel has reached record new depths with its latest discovery.

Vulcan Inc. released footage Wednesday of the deepest shipwreck ever discovered, the scattered remains of a World War II Fletcher class destroyer that lies 20,400 feet (6,220 meters) below the surface on the edge of the Emden Deep in the Philippine Sea.

The ship was lost during the Battle off Samar, one of four battles that occurred during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on Oct. 25, 1944.

“We believe this wreck to be that of the USS Johnston DD-557,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen’s Vulcan Inc. “There is no evidence of the dazzle paint scheme, indicative of the USS Hoel and its location suggests this wreck sank later in the battle, after the loss of the Hoel.”

Listen to Kraft and fellow Petrel researcher Paul Mayer discuss the find in the Vulcan video below:

There were heavy American casualties during the battle, including the loss of two escort carriers, two destroyers, one destroyer escort and 23 aircraft. Japanese forces also took significant casualties, losing three heavy cruisers and 52 aircraft during the conflict, according to a Vulcan news release.

The Johnston wreckage is at a depth just beyond the rated operational limit of the remotely operated vehicle sent down by the Petrel.

“During this dive, our deepest yet, we encountered challenges that impacted our ability to operate and obtain the typical, high quality survey that we strive for,” said Mayer, who is also a Petrel ROV pilot.

News of the find comes just over a week after the Petrel located other significant WWII shipwrecks. The Japanese aircraft carriers IJN Kaga and Akagi, both lost during the Battle of Midway in 1942, were discovered.

The crew of the 250-foot Petrel has discovered more than 30 sunken warships, with previous finds including the USS Indianapolis, the USS Lexington, the USS Juneau, the USS Helena and the USS Hornet.

The R/V Petrel and its ROV at sea. (Vulcan Photo)

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