Explorers locate deepest shipwreck ever found with discovery of lost WWII destroyer
It took a series of six dives over eight days for teams to find the USS Samuel B. Roberts
MANILA, Philippines – Explorers in the Philippines made a historic find earlier this month when they located the deepest shipwreck ever to be discovered.
The USS Samuel B. Roberts, a destroyer launched in January 1944, took part in the largest naval battle in history during World War II. It was lost to enemy fire.
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Between June 17 and June 24, the team used six dives to search for the wreckage.
Victor Vescovo, founder of Caladan Oceanic, and EYOS Expeditions said the discovery was made on June 22. He and a French sonar specialist located the wreck resting on a slope at a depth of roughly 4.3 miles. He said the ship had broken into two pieces, which were separated by about 33 feet.
Identification was made possible from a three-tube torpedo launcher found among the debris.
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"It was an extraordinary honor to locate this incredibly famous ship and by doing so, have the chance to retell her story of heroism and duty to those who may not know of the ship and her crew’s sacrifice," Vescovo said.
‘The Destroyer That Fought Like a Battleship’
The Samuel B. Roberts earned the nickname "The Destroyer That Fought Like a Battleship," during her actions in the Battle off Samar, which saw American forces pitted against a far more powerful Japanese fleet. This fight was part of the more significant Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. By some historical accounts, the American victory at the Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in history, with the Battle off Samar being its final engagement.
Vescovo said the challenging and poignant expedition to find the lost destroyer was meant to help recognize the ships and sailors from all nations who fought hard during the battle.
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"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. "I always remain in awe of the extraordinary bravery of those who fought in this battle against truly overwhelming odds – and won."
Finding the shipwreck
Vescovo said locating the Samuel B. Roberts was a team effort by his 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," said Kelvin Murray, expedition leader and director of expedition operations and undersea projects for EYOS.
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All data relating to the dive, including sonar maps, video and photographs, will be donated to the U.S. Navy and its Heritage and History Command.
The prior deepest shipwreck ever identified and surveyed was the USS Johnston, a destroyer launched in 1943 which was also sunk during the Battle of Samar. Vescovo surveyed, photographed and identified the wreck last year at a depth of just over 4 miles.
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