Explorers Survey World’s Deepest Known Shipwreck

The American destroyer U.S.S. Johnston sank on October 25, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Sea

A black and white photo of the American Destroyer the USS Johnston off of Seattle's ports in 1943
During the dive mission, the divers found and captured footage of the ship's bridge, midsection, and bow that had hull number "557" still visible on both sides. U.S. Navy Photo Via Wikicommons, Public Domain

During the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly the largest naval battle in history, a United States Navy destroyer sank off the Philippine island of Samar on October 25, 1944. Now, in the deepest shipwreck dive—crewed or uncrewed—in history, explorers in a piloted submersible went 21,180 feet deep into the ocean to survey the sunken vessel, reports Yasemin Saplakoglu for Live Science.

After 75 years, the U.S.S. Johnston was first located in 2019 using a remote operated vehicle. This year, the private ocean expedition company, Caladan Oceanic, reached the shipwreck on March 31, reports Lilit Marcus and Brad Lendon for CNN. Former U.S. Navy commander and Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo funded and piloted the submersible down to the wreck where they took high-definition photos and video of the vessel, reports Live Science.

The submersible, Caladan Oceanic's DSV Limiting Factor, descends into the depths with a nine-centimeter-thick titanium pressure hull that can hold two people inside. The Limiting Factor has also explored the deepest point in the ocean, the Mariana Trench and the Titanic, reports Rebecca Morelle for BBC News. The U.S.S. Johnston was about 62 percent deeper than the Titanic's location in the North Atlantic Ocean, according to a statement.

The team captured footage of the ship's bridge, midsection, and bow, which still had hull number "557" still visible on both sides, Live Science reports. The ship's gun turrets, twin torpedo racks, and gun mounts were still in place, reports Michael E. Ruane for the Washington Post. The U.S.S. Johnston measured 376 feet long and 39 feet wide at its widest.

Before and after the expeditions, the explorers laid wreaths to honor the 327 crew members of the U.S.S. Johnston, including 141 survivors, reports BBC. There were 185 crew members lost in the wreck, including Ernest E. Evans, who was the first Native American Navy commander to receive the Medal of Honor, reports the Washington Post.

"No human remains, or clothing were seen at any point during the dives, and nothing was taken from the wreck," according to a Caladan Oceanic statement.

The data collected, including sonar, imagery, and field notes, were given to the U.S. Navy and were not made public, Live Science reports. The wreck was not disturbed, and Vescovo hopes that the footage will be used by naval historians and archivists, Live Science reports.

"In some ways, we have come full circle," Vescovo said in a statement. "The Johnston and our own ship were built in the same shipyard, and both served in the U.S. Navy. As a U.S. Navy officer, I'm proud to have helped bring clarity and closure to the Johnston, its crew, and the families of those who fell there."

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