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World's deepest wreck explored for the first time

For the first time ever, a manned underwater vehicle has surveyed the sunken US destroyer USS Johnston. The US Navy warship from World War II, is the deepest wreck in the world. The American Victor Vescovo reached the wreck of the USS Johnston and conducted the deepest wreck exploration in history. It is remarkable that
Published: April 3, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:17
World’s deepest wreck explored for the first time

For the first time ever, a manned underwater vehicle has surveyed the sunken US destroyer USS Johnston. The US Navy warship from World War II, is the deepest wreck in the world.

The American Victor Vescovo reached the wreck of the USS Johnston and conducted the deepest wreck exploration in history. It is remarkable that he did this only two days after arriving as First man to the bottom of the Emden Deep. It is the deepest site in the Philippine Sea, with a maximum depth of 10830 metres.

Guns of the destroyer USS Johnston
Armament of the destroyer USS Johnston

A three-man expedition team led by Victor Vescovo made a total of three dives on the wreck. During their stay in the depths, the researchers collected extensive documentation in the form of photos, videos and sonar data, among other things. Thanks to the data collected, we are now absolutely certain that the wreck discovered in 2019 is the US Navy destroyer USS Johnston

Victor Vescovo's research team
Victor Vescovo and his team

We have a strict “look, don’t touch” policy, but we collect a lot of material that is very useful to naval historians and archivists. I think it’s important work, so I fund it with my own money and donate the materials to the Navy pro bono. – said Vescovo

Although undoubtedly not without significance here is the fact that wreck resting at a depth of 6450 m, is located… at the edge of the Emden Deep. In planning the whole endeavour in the Philippine Sea, Vescovo certainly intended to kill two birds with one stone. Besides, given the capabilities of his Limited Factor vehicle, it would be hard to resist such temptation.

Measuring 115 metres long, the destroyer USS Johnston was lost in the autumn of 1944 after an hours-long exchange of fire with Japanese naval forces. The clash took place near Samaar, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It went down in history as one of the greatest naval battles in history.

Historic photo of the USS Johnston
Archival photograph of the USS Johnston
Finding the USS Johnston

The wreck of the US destroyer USS Johnston has been found in 2019 by Paul Allen’s scientific team. This was another spectacular success for the researchers aboard the R/V Petrel. Unfortunately, it was not possible at the time to be absolutely certain of the identity of the vessel. What was certain, however, was that it is the deepest wreck in the world that we currently know of.

Vulcan’s ROV captured video footage of the Fletcher-class destroyer in 2019. However, the vehicle had reached its maximum range of 6000m and was unable to provide detailed data. What was needed, therefore, was a another expedition, which would be able to thoroughly investigate the wreckage found.

Wreck of the Fletcher class destroyer
The wreck of the USS Johnston is the deepest located wreck in history

Vulcan’s ROV captured video footage of the Fletcher-class destroyer in 2019. However, the vehicle had reached its maximum range of 6,000m and was unable to provide detailed data. So another expedition was needed that would be able to thoroughly investigate the wreckage found.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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