The latest to be located and videoed is the WW2 light cruiser USS Helena, located 865m down in New Georgia Sound in the Solomon Islands in late March.

More than 730 of Helena’s 900 crew survived after the warship was sunk by three Japanese torpedoes during the Battle of Kula Gulf on 6 July, 1943, and it was the heroic efforts of rescuers and the crew themselves that made the headlines.

Surviving crew gathered at the bow under enemy fire as the ship sank slowly.

Two destroyers, USS Nicholas and Radford, came to evacuate them but had to break away to combat Japanese attackers.

They left three motor whaleboats, however, and with each of these towing a life-raft, Helena’s Captain Cecil was able to conduct some 275 men to a small island about seven miles away. They were later recovered by US destroyers.

Almost 200 men were left clinging to Helena’s bow, but an aircraft was able to drop life-jackets and four rubber lifeboats into which the wounded were placed. The able-bodied survivors then attempted to push the boats towards a nearby island.

Wind and current frustrated their efforts and carried them further into enemy waters, where US aircraft were unable to find them.

However, 165 survivors eventually landed on Vella Lavella with the help of islanders who let their HQ know that they were alive. The crew then had to hide in jungle to evade Japanese patrols. 

On 16 July, Nicholas, Radford and two other destroyers, Jenkins and O’Bannon, ventured further into Japanese-held waters than ever before and succeeded in evacuating the remaining men from the island. 

Other iconic wrecks located by Petrel recently and reported on Divernet include USS Juneau and USS Lexington.

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