Discoveries of R/V Petrel in 2019

December 24, 2019
by Chris 

2019 was a very active year for the Research Vessel Petrel. An ambitious project launched by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, Petrel has continued to search the deep waters of the Pacific even after Allen’s death in October of 2018. Since 2015, R/V Petrel has made many amazing discoveries, including some of the major American and Japanese battleships and aircraft carriers sunk during World War II. While some of the newly-located ships have been forgotten with time, others were well-known vessels that played significant roles in major conflicts. Here's a list of discoveries of R/V Petrel in 2019.

Discoveries of R/V Petrel in 2019 - American Vessels

USS Hornet (CV-8)

The first American vessel to be found by R/V Petrel's researchers in 2019, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet was located in 17,700’ of water off the Solomon Islands. Hornet is best known as the ship from which the Doolittle Raid, the morale-boosting American bombing of Tokyo early in the war, launched. When the team from Petrel discovered the ship in late January, she was found to be in remarkable condition. Though part of her flight deck collapsed after being struck by Japanese bombs, and her stern is partially torn away, Hornet is recognizable and sits upright on the ocean floor. The team also found aircraft still scattered nearby.

USS Strong (DD-467)

USS Strong (DD-467)
USS Strong (DD-467)

Fourteen days after finding USS Hornet, Petrel located an American destroyer, USS Strong. Found in 1,000’ of water, Strong was broken in pieces, fragments having been scattered by the depth charges that detonated when she was struck. The surrounding debris included boilers, the ship’s wheelhouse, and propellers.

USS Wasp (CV-7)

In March, the crew of R/V Petrel announced that another US aircraft carrier had been located. USS Wasp was found at a depth of just under 14,000’, sitting upright in two pieces. The team also noted several aircraft surrounding the ship, including Dauntlesses and Avengers.

USS St. Lo (CVE-63)

A US Navy escort carrier, USS St. Lo was the first recorded ship to have been sunk by a kamikaze attack. St. Lo was found near the Philippine Trench, and though she is largely intact, considerable damage is visible. St. Lo’ is the first escort carrier to have been found in the Pacific.

USS Johnston (DD-557)

The final discovery before ceasing operations for the year, USS Johnston was located in 20,406’ of water. Her location at more than 20,000’ below the surface is believed to make her the deepest shipwreck discovered to date.

Japanese Vessels


Located early in January, the Japanese destroyer Niizuki was discovered in 2,444’ of water. The sunken vessel, credited with sinking USS Strong with the longest torpedo shot ever, was found sitting upright. The photos of the sunken destroyer were said to be the first-ever to be taken of the ship.


While searching off the Solomon Islands, R/V Petrel located the Japanese cruiser Jintsu. The twisted frame of the ship was found in 3,000’ of water, with her bow lying on her port and her stern sitting upright near the mouth of Kula Gulf.

Japanese cruiser Jintsu
Japanese cruiser Jintsu


Not long after locating Jintsu, the Petrel team announced the finding of the Japanese battleship Hiei on February 6. Hiei was the first Japanese battleship sunk during the war, lost during the conflict off the Solomon Islands. Located in 3,000’ of water, Hiei was discovered off Savo Island.


On May 9, researchers form R/V Petrel announced that they had located another Japanese vessel, the heavy cruiser Furutaka. Discovered 4,600’ below the surface, the cruiser was broken into two sections. Her bridge was located approximately 2,000 feet away from the main wreckage.


 IJN cruiser Maya
IJN cruiser Maya

Next in a string of Japanese warships to be located, Petrel’s team found the cruiser Maya, announcing the discovery on July 1. Located off the Palawan archipelago in the Philippines, Maya was found to be mostly intact, save for her forward bow. She even has her bridge and guns still in place at over 6,000’ below the surface.


Also discovered near the Philippines, Mogami was found sitting upright in 4,760’ of water. Her discovery was announced on September 9. Her forward bow had been blown off, but the bulk of her frame is still in good condition.


Petrel’s team next revealed that it had located a Japanese cruiser, Chokai, in the Philippine Deep. The upright wreck is missing her bow and sits in nearly 17,000’ of water.


One of the aircraft carriers involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kaga was sunk during the Battle of Midway. The discovery of Kaga was announced on October 18. The wreckage of the ship was located in 17,700’ of water. Kaga is the first Japanese aircraft carrier to have been located.


Japanese Zero plane taking off from aircraft carrier Akagi on the way to the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941
Japanese Zero plane taking off from aircraft carrier Akagi on the way to the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941

Two days after announcing the discovery of Kaga, Petrel’s researchers revealed they had also found Akagi, another of the Japanese aircraft carriers that had participated in the Pearl Harbor attack. Sunk during the Battle of Midway, Akagi was located 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, at a depth of 18,011’.

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