More than 70 years after it was torpedoed and sunk during the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp has been discovered in the Coral Sea.
Wasp was spotted on the seabed, in 14,000 feet of water, by the research vessel (RV) Petrel, part of a research organization established by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, in January.
Video and images taken by Petrel’s ROV show the heavy damage that Wasp sustained, and the surprisingly unchanged condition of her hull and equipment after 77 years underwater.
The Wasp was in transit as part of a convoy delivering reinforcements to Guadalcanal on Sept. 15, 1942, when the Japanese submarine I-19 fired several torpedoes at the aircraft carrier in quick succession, according to the New York Times.
Of the ship’s 2,162-strong crew, 176 were killed in the attack.
Unable to save the ship, the Wasp’s surviving crew abandoned the still-floating aircraft carrier, knowing that it would most likely sink on its own within hours. To speed that process, American Navy officers scuttled the carrier by firing torpedoes from a warship in their naval convoy, said the New York Times.
“Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Admiral (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, in the statement. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.”
Photos, captured by the Petrel’s ROV and posted on the RV Petrel Facebook page, clearly show Wasp’s bridge, anti-aircraft guns, a 5-inch gun, the wreckage of Avenger aircraft and an anchor.
The tech aboard the Petrel relies on a sensor — called an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV — that can dive as deep as 18,000 feet as it follows a preprogrammed route, propelling and guiding itself. The device then returns to the surface and once it is craned aboard by crew members, researchers download data for analysis.
Earlier this year, the RV Petrel also discovered the wreckage of the first Japanese battleship to be sunk by U.S. forces during World War II, the Hiei. In 2017, Allen and his team also found the long-lost wreck of the USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea.
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