Deepest shipwreck
USS Johnston
6,468.6 metre(s)
Philippines (-)

On 25 May 2019, the RV Petrel, directed by shipwreck expert Robert Kraft (USA), discovered part of a World War II US Fletcher-class destroyer during a combination of AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) side scan sonar as well as a visual ROV (remotely operated vehicle) survey in the Emden Deep of the Philippine Trench, near the island of Samar. The wreckage lay at a depth of 6,220 m (20,407 ft) and was suspected to be from the USS Johnston, which was known to have sunk in this region during battle on 25 October 1944. Its identity was confirmed by American explorer Victor Vescovo (pilot; US Navy, Ret.), maritime historian Parks Stephenson (USA; US Navy, Ret.) and submersible engineer Shane Eigler (Canada), during two dives conducted on 29–30 March 2021. Using Vescovo's DSV Limiting Factor, the expeditionary team ventured to the same area to observe the wreck in situ directly and affirm its provenance. They were able to do this by locating the vessel's unique hull number ("DD-557") on the bow section. After analysis and calibration of data from multiple depth sensors, the deepest part of the USS Johnston, an aft portion, was calculated to lay at 6,468.6 metres (21,222 feet) (+/- 6 metres) below the surface. This also represents the deepest shipwreck dive in history, either by a crewed or robotic vessel.

The Johnston measured 376 ft (115 m) long with a beam of 39 ft (11. 9m). The ship was sunk after facing off against vastly superior Japanese forces during the Battle of Leyte Gulf – considered by some to be the largest naval battle in history – off the coast of Samar Island. The Johnston even came under fire from the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamato, the largest-ever battleship.

In addition to documenting the Johnston's hull number, Vescovo and his team also filmed the ship's bridge, as well as several gun turrets, torpedo racks and gun mounts. Nothing was taken or disturbed on the site in line with strict protocols around protecting wrecks that also represent mass graves.

The USS Johnston lies 62% deeper than where the RMS Titanic lay in the North Atlantic. The previous deepest-known shipwreck was the SS Rio Grande, found at a depth of 5,762 m (18,904 ft) in the South Atlantic by Blue Water Recoveries Ltd (UK) on 30 November 1996.

Victor Vescovo is no stranger to setting records in extreme locations: he is the first person to reach Earth's highest and lowest points (Everest at 8,848 m/20,029 ft above sea level and the Challenger Deep at 10,934 m/35,872 ft below sea level) as well as the first person to visit the deepest point in all Earth's oceans, both achieved in 2019.

The RV Petrel was owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (USA, 1953–2018).