A Glimpse of Yorktown Wreckage

Fifty-six years after the sinking of the Yorktown carrier in the pivotal Battle of Midway, researchers released the first photograph of the wreckage, taken three miles down on the ocean floor of the Pacific.

A team of National Geographic researchers, working with a deep-sea exploration unit based in San Diego, released a photograph on the anniversary of the epic battle in 1942 when four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk during one of the most important sea battles of the 20th century, led by Robert Ballard.

The video camera from the Navy’s Advanced Tethered Vehicle captured the image of the giant ship appearing well and upright, preserved in darkness at a depth of 16,650 feet below the surface.

Ballard stated that the muzzles were still pointed towards the sky and their antiaircraft guns, which had four barrels, were still loaded. The stainless steel surfaces of the ship remained shiny, and the name of the ship on the stern could be easily seen.

The pressure of the ocean at these depths, which are one mile deeper than where the Titanic settled, is incredibly high. In fact, the remote-controlled vehicle that was being used to investigate the area actually collapsed under the immense pressure, equivalent to the force of five sticks of dynamite. This unexpected event required Navy technicians to quickly and temporarily fix the vehicle while at sea.

Ballard, the president of the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn., Expressed, “Our vehicle had exploded, leaving us stranded in a remote location.” He further described the situation as a chaotic and frantic endeavor.

On May 19, the debris was found utilizing a novel ocean bottom mapping system created by the University of Hawaii, by the National Geographic team operating from the U.S. Navy research vessel Laney Choest. The MR-1 mapper scans extensive sections of the ocean floor using a portable side-scanning sonar. The vessel initially appeared as a blur barely one-sixteenth of an inch in length on the sonar image following weeks of unsuccessful searches.

The vessel is controlled by the Navy’s submarine development team located at Point Loma. The real investigation of the ship, situated a few hundred miles away from Midway, was conducted by a deep-diving undersea robotic vessel, capable of operating at depths of up to 20,000 feet.

The team had no difficulty recognizing the vessel by reading its name on the rear.

Ballard said on Thursday, “What stands out the most in my mind is how the bridge and wheel looked, and how shiny the compass and doors were. It’s like it was 56 years ago, and if you were able to scrub it, it would look just right in the bridge.”

Emotional Impact of Uncovering

Following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, where the majority of the American fleet was destroyed, the Yorktown became one of only three remaining U.S. Carriers to safeguard the Pacific during the beginning of World War II. The discovery of the sunken carrier held great importance for historians in the Navy.

The Yorktown, as part of a carrier task force, helped sink three Japanese carriers and severely damaged them during an unsuccessful invasion midway. After three days of battle, on June 7, 1942, the Yorktown was heavily damaged by Japanese torpedoes and eventually sank. It was the last time it was seen by the thousands of sailors aboard, who witnessed it rolling upside down and slipping beneath the waves.

The presence of Japanese and American veterans of the historic battle was heightened by the discovery of the research vessel on board, which also served as a reminder of the two Japanese pilots who served on the Kaga during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American flyer who survived the attack on the Kaga and jumped overboard to safety, and the American sailor who jumped overboard and survived as the Yorktown sank.

The Japanese veterans also performed a Shinto ceremony near the wreck of the carrier Kaga, where the robot expedition left a memorial plaque to commemorate the crew and memorialize the ceremony.

The National Geographic Society allocated $1.5 million for the expedition, in accordance with its extensive tradition of financing exploration endeavors.

Reflecting the intense public interest, Ballard’s deep-sea explorations skirting the line between commercial entertainment and scientific research aggressively exploit society’s historic, newest, and exotic discoveries.

The magazine’s website also documented the voyage with a series of electronic dispatches. In addition, the magazine and NPR, a joint venture of National Public Radio, commissioned a two-hour radio documentary through their Expeditions Radio Unit, as well as a two-hour television documentary through their television division. The documentary was also commissioned by National Geographic for publication as an article in the following year’s magazine.

In anticipation of the magazine article being published, National Geographic instructed the researchers to keep back all but one of the approximately 1,000 static images captured of the submerged carrier. Nevertheless, a formal press briefing took place in Washington on Thursday, going against their typical procedure.

According to Ballard, the government possesses the debris and the undisclosed location of the Yorktown. He asserts his confidence that the presence of the Titanic’s remains will not entice profit-seeking salvagers or collectors of deep-sea mementos, despite the attention it has received.

Ballard stated, “There is a significant distinction between the Yorktown and the Titanic. The Yorktown is perpetually a military vessel, whereas a warship is defined as such.”