Marine archaeologists believe they have found the world’s deepest military wreck – they are now trying to decide which of two American Fletcher-class destroyers they have captured on video at 6,220m in the Philippine Sea.
According to Guinness World Records, the previous deepest wreck was a German vessel found at 5,762m.
Video footage captured by a remote submersible operated from the RV Petrel shows mangled gun emplacements, two funnels and other, unrecognisable hunks of twisted metal strewn across the seabed.
‘There is no hull structure intact that we can find. This wreck is completely decimated, it is just debris,’ the crew of the Petrel said in a video released this week.
It is thought the wreckage comes from a pivotal naval battle that took place in October 1944. The most likely ship it came from is the USS Johnston, a member of the famous ‘Taffy 3’ unit which steamed into battle against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s most powerful battleship in order to protect US troops fighting on the beaches at Leyte in the Philippines.
‘This wreck is either the Johnston or the Hoel,’ the Petrel team said. ‘This wreck is in the southern part of where the battle took place and this is one of the reasons why we believe this is the Johnston, because she sank later, after Hoel did.’
The wider battle in Leyte Gulf, which took place over several days, effectively ended the usefulness of the Japanese surface fleet. It is also notable as the battle in which the Japanese organised kamikaze attacks – a tactic which claimed the escort carrier USS St Lo during the battle off Samar.
The Petrel expedition was founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Its team works with officials around the globe to find and document sunken ships.