Deepest shipwreck ever found

Last updated: November 10, 2019 at 1:26 am

6,220 m (20,406 ft) — USS Johnston (DD-557), Philippine Sea. On October 30, 2019, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. announced the discovery of the world’s deepest located shipwreck on the edge of the Emden Deep in the Philippine Sea. Debris from an American Fletcher class destroyer sunk during the Battle off Samar were remotely observed from Vulcan’s research vessel Petrel. Since another Fletcher-class ship, the USS Hoel (DD-533), was also sunk during the same battle, the nameless wreckage was tentatively identified as the USS Johnston based on its appearance as well as its location in the southern part of the battle area.

“We believe this wreck to be that of the USS Johnston. 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.” — Robert Kraft, Director of Subsea Operations | Vulcan Inc.

On Oct. 25, 1944, the USS Johnston was the first to engage a Japanese force of four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 11 destroyers that surprised U.S. forces defending Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. Highly outnumbered and outgunned, the Johnston inflicted significant damage on enemy forces before being disabled and sunk. From Johnston’s complement of 327, only 141 were saved. Of 186 lost, about 50 were killed by enemy action, 45 died on rafts from battle injuries; and 92, including Commander Ernest E. Evans, were alive in the water after Johnston sank, but were never heard from again.

Johnston’s supreme courage and daring in the Battle off Samar won her the Presidential Unit Citation as a unit of “Taffy 3” (Task Unit 77.4.3). Comdr. Evans was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor: “The skipper was a fighting man from the soles of his broad feet to the ends of his straight black hair. He was an Oklahoman and proud of the Indian blood he had in him. We called him—though not to his face—the Chief. The Johnston was a fighting ship, but he was the heart and soul of her.” In addition to the Presidential Unit Citation, Johnston received six battle stars for service in World War II.

Fletcher Class DD-557: displacement 2,700 net tons; length 376’6″; beam 39’8″; draught 17’9″; speed 35 knots; armament 5.5″, 10x40mm, 7x20mm, 10×21″ torpedo tubes.

PREVIOUS RECORD: 18,904 ft (5,762 m) — SS Rio Grande, South Atlantic. The Rio Grande was a German blockade runner sunk by US naval ships off Northeast Brazil in 1944. It was discovered in 1996 by UK-based Bluewater Recoveries Ltd.

Vulcan Inc.
U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command
Bluewater Recoveries

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