The USS Lexington at anchor in 1938
More than 70 years at the bottom of the sea
Gun is still aimed at Japanese bombers in the sky
Found two miles deep in the Coral Sea
Known for deep-sea exploration efforts uncovering military ships in the past, Paul Allen's personal search team has helped to discover a lost aircraft carrier.
The U.S.S. Lexington has finally been found, decades later and thousands of feet underwater.
The crew of Research Vessel Petrel (R/V Petrel), the exploration ship of billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, discovered the wreckage of the World War II-era aircraft carrier Monday. It was found about two miles below the surface of the Coral Sea and more than 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia.
The Lexington is one of the first aircraft carriers built by the U.S. It went down in 1942 with 216 crewmembers and 35 aircraft on board, and it's finally been found.
Allen, the son of a WWII veteran, and the R/V Petrel team had been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months after they were given coordinates for where the sunken ship might be. They retrofitted their 250-foot vessel, originally deployed to the Philippine Sea in 2017, with subsea equipment that can reach depths up to three and a half miles.
"We're dealing with an environment out here that is very harsh," Robert Kraft, Allen's director of subsea operations, told media. "It's thousands of meters deep and it's very unpredictable. We're putting, you know, a lot of electronics and high voltage down in very deep waters and sea waters where it shouldn't belong, and so that always presents challenges."
First commissioned as a battlecruiser, the Lexington was launched as an aircraft carrier in 1925. On May 4, 1942, the ship fought with the U.S.S. Yorktown against three Japanese carriers in the first carrier-on-carrier battle in history. The Lexington sustained multiple hits from bombs and torpedoes until succumbing on May 8. A secondary explosion had set uncontrollable fires raging through the vessel, triggering the call to abandon ship. The U.S.S. Phelps delivered the final torpedoes that finally sank the ship.
With U.S. ships nearby, 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued from the doomed vessel. Among them was the captain and his dog Wags, the ship's ever-present mascot.
The planes were still in place on the deck