Add one more to Victor Vescovo’s growing list of deep-sea discoveries.
The founder of Caladan Oceanic, who is an avid underwater explorer, found the world’s deepest shipwreck on Wednesday with help from EYOS Expeditions. The USS Destroyer Escort Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), or “Sammy B” for short, was launched in 1944 and sank during a battle in the Philippine Sea the same year. It’s been out of sight for nearly 80 years. Until now, that is.
Vescovo, alongside sonar specialist Jeremie Morizet of France, successfully located the wreck resting on a slope at a depth of 22,621 feet (6,895 meters). That’s some 1,397 feet deeper than the wreck of USS Johnston, which Vescovo discovered last year.
Sammy B was actually broken into two pieces, which were separated by about 33 feet, but the team was still able to successfully identify it. The 306-footer was part of a small force of US warships that fought against a more powerful Japanese fleet in the Battle off Samar. In fact, the flotilla was a major catalyst for the American victory in the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf, which is widely considered the biggest naval battle in history.
Sammy B was attacked by three enemy battleships and took on two heavy cruisers herself, according to historical accounts. This earned her the appellation: “The destroyer escort that fought like a battleship.” Of the 224 crew, 89 were killed and 120 were saved, including the ship’s captain Robert W. Copeland.
“In difficult times, it’s important to reflect on those who sacrificed so much, so willingly, in even more difficult times to ensure our freedoms and way of life,” Vescovo said in a statement. “I always remain in awe of the extraordinary bravery of those who fought in this battle against truly overwhelming odds—and won.”
Despite inaccurate historical records, the team was able to pinpoint the wreck through a combination of exhaustive research and a series of six dives. The search also involved the use of a bespoke side-scan sonar system built by Deep Ocean Search that is capable of operating at depths of up to 36,000 feet. Caladan believes this is the deepest side-scan sonar ever installed and operated on a submersible, which makes this a significant technical feat, too.
The Caladan Oceanic & EYOS teams are now on their way back to Guam to begin further expeditions in the Western Pacific.