USS Johnston shipwreck submarine

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USS Johnston: World’s deepest shipwreck dive completed

6 April 2021 • Written by Olivia Michel

The world’s deepest shipwreck dive has successfully been completed by submarine pilot and superyacht owner Victor Vescovo on board his submersible DSV Limiting Factor. During two separate, eight-hour dives, Vescovo and his team, which included fellow missions specialists Parks Stephenson and Shane Eigler, successfully re-located, surveyed, and filmed the USS Johnston.

Vescovo's submersible was able to capture never-before-seen footage of the wreck.

The USS Johnston lies at 6,456 metres deep off the coast of the Philippines, sitting as much as 62% deeper than the RMS Titanic. She was a US Navy Fletcher-class destroyer that was sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944.

Remains of the vessel were initially found in 2019 by the late Paul Allen’s vessel R/V Petrel under the leadership of Robert Kraft. However, the majority of the wreck lay deeper than the ROV’s depth limit meaning that the dives completed by DSV Limiting Factor have brought new details to light.

The dives by DSV Limiting Factor have now revealed that the 115 metre long sunken vessel features two full five inchgun turrets, twin torpedo racks and multiple gun mounts still in place and visible on the superstructure. The hull number 557 has also now been discovered on both sides of its bow.

The USS Johnston was sunk off the coast of the Philippines.

After conducting a thorough survey of the wreck and obtaining high-definition imagery, mission specialist and former US Navy Lieutenant Commander Stephenson said: “We could see the extent of the wreckage and the severe damage inflicted during the intense battle on the surface. It took fire from the largest warship ever constructed - the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamato, and ferociously fought back.”

“All of the accounts pay tribute to the crew’s bravery and complete lack of hesitation in taking the fight to the enemy, and the wreckage serves to prove that", he added.

The dive team discovered the hull number 557 still visible on the bow.

No human remains or clothing were seen at any point during the dives and nothing was taken from the wreck, but the team laid a wreath on the oceanic battlefield to commemorate the lives lost of those on board during the battle.

DSV Limiting Factor has no operating depth limitation and is a highly manoeuvrable craft built by Triton, which carries an array of high-definition and 4K cameras. The submersible has already been piloted by Vescovo as part of the Five Deeps Expedition, where it was used to dive to the deepest points in each of the world’s five oceans.

Superyacht owner Victor Vescovo piloted the dive.
Reeve Jolliffe

As the dive was completed, Vescovo said: “In some ways we have come full circle. The Johnston and our own ship were built in the same shipyard, and both served in the US Navy. As a US 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.”