It lurks over four miles deep below the Pacific Ocean, split in half and lodged on a slope.
There’s a new world’s deepest shipwreck to be identified and surveyed – and it’s the USS Destroyer Escort Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), known as the Sammy B.
Victor Vescovo, an explorer who has previously completed expeditions to the world’s deepest points, located the wreck together on June 22.
It lies at a depth of 6,895 meters (22,621 feet), in the Philippine Sea. By comparison, Mount Kilimanjaro’s peak is 5,896 meters, while the highest permanent settlement in the world, La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes, is 5,100 meters (16,700 feet).
Previously, the deepest wreck ever identified and surveyed was the USS Johnston, found last year by Vescovo. That lies at 6,469 meters.
Vescovo, the pilot, and sonar specialist Jeremie Morizet, dove down to trace the wreck from end to end. It has broken into two pieces, lying about 10 meters (33 feet) from each other.
The Sammy B. sank in the Battle off Samar, on October 25, 1944, in which the US Navy defeated the larger Japanese fleet, east of the island of Samar in the Philippines. It fought three Japanese battleships, including the Yamato, said to be the largest ever constructed. The US ship carried 224 crewmembers, 89 of whom were killed. Captain Robert W. Copeland was one of the survivors.
The ship “fought ferociously even though she was completely outclassed by the Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers she went up against,” Vescovo told CNN.
“The heroism of her captain and crew is legendary in the Navy, and it was a great honor to find her final resting place. I think it helps bring closure to the story of the ship, for the families of those who were lost and those who served on her. I think that having a ship vanish into the depths, never to be seen again, can leave those affiliated with the ship feeling a sense of emptiness.
“Finding the wrecks can help bring closure, and also bring details about the battle that perhaps we didn’t know before. As we say, ‘Steel doesn’t lie.’”
Vescovo, the founder exploration company Caladan Oceanic, and a team from EYOS Expeditions made six dives over eight days looking for the ship, as well as for another US ship, the Gambier Bay. Previous records pointing to the ships’ location had been inaccurate, but the team were helped by a custom-built sidescan solar system, as well as exhaustive research.
Initially they located debris from the Sammy B. – a three-tube torpedo launcher, which it was the only one of the sunken ships to have. On the final day, they located the wreck.
Vescovo called it an “honor” to find the ship, saying in a statement that locating it had given the team the chance “to retell her story of heroism and duty.”
“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,” he said.
“I always remain in awe of the extraordinary bravery of those who fought in this battle against truly overwhelming odds – and won.”
And he told CNN that they hadn’t even been sure the trip would succeed.
“The Sammy B is a small vessel as military ships go, and we weren’t really sure that we could find her in the vast and extremely deep ocean where she went down. But with perseverance, some great historical analysis, and a whole lot of deep ocean technology and hard work, we were able to find her and provide a great opportunity to tell her amazing story,” he said.
“It is unbelievably thrilling to find a wreck on the bottom of the deep ocean, given all the difficulties in trying to find them. It is such an immense privilege to be the first person to see them after they went down in battle almost 80 years ago.”
Kelvin Murray, Expedition Leader and Director of Expedition Operations & Undersea Projects for EYOS said, “As ever, there’s been an incredible and dedicated effort by the whole team – the ship’s crew, sub team, historians and other specialists. Using a combination of detective work and innovative technology, everyone has pulled together to reveal the final resting place of this tenacious ship.
“It’s been a challenging, thrilling and poignant expedition, one that recognizes the ships and sailors from all nations who fought so hard during this battle. We are all proud of what has been achieved and humbled by what we witnessed.”
The team also went lower to over 7,000 meters to look for one other vessel – a carrier, called Gambier Bay – but were unable to find it. They didn’t look for the other destroyer, USS Hoel, due to lack of data.
But the Sammy B. might not be the deepest wreck for too long. The group thinks its new Deep Ocean Search sidescan sonar is the deepest side-scan sonar ever operated on a submersible – normally, they go up to 6,000 meters, but this has been tested to 11,000 meters, or full ocean depth. The Caladan Oceanic team plans to take it right to the bottom next month.
Top photo: Caladan Oceanic