In its determined last stand in October 1944, the Sammy B took on the Japanese during a World War II battle that eventually sent it down to the ocean floor. The US Navy destroyer (official name: the USS Samuel B. Roberts) remained lost to humankind for nearly 80 more years—until Texas explorer Victor Vescovo found it in his deep-sea submersible on Wednesday, submerged almost 23,000 feet deep in the Philippine Sea. Per the Washington Post, its spot about 4 miles below sea level makes it the world's deepest shipwreck ever found and surveyed, with its depth "surpassing the height of Mount Kilimanjaro or 18 times the Empire State Building." The BBC puts into further context just how deep the ship is: About 98% of the Earth's ocean floors are less than 20,000 feet deep.
"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—who's also visited the deepest spots in the world's five oceans, ascended the highest summits on all seven continents, and gone into space on Jeff Bezos' New Shepard—says in a statement, per the Post. That heroic story took place during the Battle Off Samar, when the outmanned vessel used up all of its ammunition stores driving off multiple Japanese battleships, before it was hit itself and sank.
Of the 224 crew members, nearly 90 were killed. Those who survived clung to life rafts for more than two days before they were plucked out of the water. Per CNN, Vescovo, who's the founder of the Caladan Oceanic explorations company, and a sonar specialist found the Sammy B in two pieces on the ocean floor, lying a little more than 30 feet from each other. Meanwhile, the vessel may not even be the deepest shipwreck out there. "There are two other American ships that have yet to be found: the USS Gambier Bay [an escort carrier] and the USS Hoel [a destroyer]," Kelvin Murray from EYOS, the company that organized Vescovo's expedition, tells the BBC. (Read more shipwreck stories.)