Deep Sea Shipwreck Hunting for the New York Times Magazine

In January writer Ed Caesar and I spent seventeen days on the Coral sea aboard the R/V Petrel searching the ocean floor for the USS Wasp, an American aircraft carrier lost during WWII. The Petrel is a 250-foot converted North Sea oil-and-gas vessel, retro-fitted for wreck-hunting by the late Paul Allen, the multi-billionaire who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates.

On September 15, 1942 the Wasp was escorting a convoy of US Marines bound for the island of Guadalcanal, when she was hit by three torpedoes fired at close range by the I-19, a Japanese submarine. The lives of 193 men were lost. At approximately 9pm, the giant ship slipped below the surface of the ocean. It remained lost, shrouded in watery darkness until the crew of the Petrel found her using their high tech submarines, resting on the ocean floor at a depth of over 4000 metres. As the lights of the Petrel’s ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) shone on the wreckage, we witnessed the haunting, well preserved evidence of the violent end that met the ship and its crew. One of the first pieces of debris we encountered was a lone helmet.

Many thanks to the crew of the Petrel and to the amazing team of editors at the magazine. The full piece can be viewed here.