One of the first aircraft carriers built by the United States has finally been recovered 76 years after it sunk off the coast of Australia.
On Monday, the team on board Research Vessel Petrel (R/V Petrel) found the USS Lexington hiding about two miles below the surface of the Coral Sea. The research ship belongs to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who has become a deep sea wreckage explorer in recent years.
“‘Lady Lex’ went down with 35 planes,” Allen writes on Twitter. “So far, #RVPetrel has found 11 of them.”
According to his website, Allen’s 250-foot R/V Petrel is capable of diving about three and a half miles. He started using it for explorations in the Philippine Sea back in 2017, though it has since moved its focus to the Coral Sea.
“Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during WWII,” Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen, said in a statement. “Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue. We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.”
The USS Lexington helped block a Japanese advance in the Pacific Theater during the Battle of the Coral Sea. After four days, the cruiser sank on May 8, 1942, after being bombarded by multiple torpedoes, taking 216 crew members and 35 aircraft with it. About 2,770 people on board were ultimately rescued, and a month later, the Battle of Midway helped turn the war in the Pacific in favor of the U.S. and its allies.
The Lexington’s recovery is the latest in a long line of discoveries for Allen. His team found the USS Indianapolis back in August 2017, the USS Ward in November of the same year, and the USS Astoria in February 2015.
At this point, the Lexington’s fate is unclear. Hopefully its parts wind up in a museum.