Exploring the Depths: The Deepest Wreck Dive in History

Victor Vescovo made history with this deepest dive into a shipwreck ever to find main wreckage of destroyer USS Johnston.

Exploring the Depths: The Deepest Wreck Dive in History

In 1944, the USS Johnston was sunk after a fierce battle against the largest battleship in the world. After more than 75 years, the wreck was finally located, 6 km (3.7 miles) below the surface of the ocean. A team of US explorers recently made the deepest known shipwreck dive in the world to inspect the wreckage of this naval destroyer, which was located almost 6,500 meters below sea level off the coast of Samar Island in the Philippines. Victor Vescovo, founder of Caladan Oceanic, piloted a manned submersible to film, photograph and inspect the USS Johnston.

He tweeted a dramatic video of the wreck on Sunday. The 115-meter-long ship had sunk on October 25, 1944 during the Battle of the Gulf of Leyte, when US forces fought to liberate the Philippines. Only 141 of its 327 crew members survived, according to the US State Department. Of those who perished, about 50 died as a result of enemy action, 45 died on rafts from injuries, and 92 crew members were alive in the water after the ship sank but were never heard from again.

The expedition found that the bow, bridge and central section of the ship were still intact with helmet number 557 still visible. Two full five-inch turrets, two torpedo racks and several gun holders remained in place. The navigator and historian Parks Stephenson reported that the wreck had been damaged during the intense surface battle 76 years ago.

The Deepest Shipwreck Dives

The data, images and field notes collected during these dives will be delivered to the US government.

Last year, they found the USS Nevada - an iconic battleship that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor - in the Pacific Ocean. Clayton Gentile and their team represented four of the ten deepest shipwreck dives, while Gentile participated in five of them and Deans and his team scored two dives on this list. Table 1 below shows the ten deepest technological dives from 1989 to 1999, including their location, depth, dive profile, technology used and technical divers who first dived in each wreck. It will be interesting to see what this list looks like in 2038. The Vulcan ROV obtained video images of this Fletcher-class destroyer but had reached its 6 km deep limit and was unable to investigate deeper parts of the wreck.

On June 22nd Victor Vescovo discovered it while piloting his DSV Limiting Factor submersible. He and another former naval officer - historian Lieutenant Colonel Parks Stephenson - were able to relocate, inspect and obtain high-definition images of this wreck to ensure its positive identification. Just two days after piloting his first manned descent into Emden's depths - 10 km deep - in the Philippine Sea, American ocean explorer Victor Vescovo made history with this deepest dive into a shipwreck. Previously he had conducted a complete study of USS Johnston's wreckage - a Fletcher-class destroyer sunk during same naval battle as Sammy B - which was originally discovered by a private expedition funded by late Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft).

Irish Teckkie Barry McGill and his colleague Stewie Andrews along with their various teams were responsible for three out of 25 deepest wreck explorations. As for divers, Terrence Tysall (now director of training at National Association of Underwater Instructors) made two deepest dives on board in 1990s; first one while diving on Edmund Fitzgerald with Mike “Zee” Zlatopolsky and second one on USS Atlanta with Australian technological pioneer Kevin Densay. Of course Jacques Cousteau and his team discovered and dived this wreck back in 1976 (see table). Victor Vescovo just made history by making deepest shipwreck dive ever to find main wreckage of destroyer USS Johnston.

Out of current deepest shipwreck dives (five from 1990s) twelve were done using open circuit while rest were done using closed-circuit technology.

Ethan Kelly
Ethan Kelly

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