The voyages of the R/V Petrel, funded by the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, are the focus of a National Geographic documentary premiering on Monday – and as a prelude to the show, the leader of the Petrel team is talking about what it takes to find historic shipwrecks in the Pacific.
“Our missions have led to discovery of over 30 historically significant shipwrecks, diverse ecosystems and encounters with rare marine species,” Rob Kraft, Vulcan’s director of subsea operations, says in an online Q&A. “The environment we operate in brings inherent dangers, challenges and risk that most people will never experience.”
That all sounds like a natural fit for the next episode of “Drain the Oceans,” a National Geographic series that delves into what we’d find beneath the waves if the world’s oceans could magically disappear.
“Pacific War Megawrecks” focuses on the Petrel’s discovery of the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that sank in 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea; and of the USS Indianapolis, a Navy cruiser that delivered parts of the Hiroshima atomic bomb in 1945 but was sunk before the bomb was dropped.
The star of one of the most terrifying tales in maritime history, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis resulted in the greatest single loss of life at sea from a single ship in the history of the US Navy. #DrainTheOceans pic.twitter.com/T3NARuQMts
— Nat Geo Channel (@NatGeoChannel) July 30, 2019
Kraft says the saga of the Indianapolis “generated tremendous public interest in the story of its sinking and the harrowing circumstances for survivors.” And during the search for the Lexington, he and his crew were “awestruck by the various airplanes that were distributed around her hull on the ocean floor.”
But Kraft declines to name his favorite shipwreck story.
“I challenge everyone to read about each and every ship that has an honored place in history and should be remembered,” he says.
Watching “Drain the Oceans,” on TV or eventually online, is a good place to start. But to get the whole story, check out the R/V Petrel section of the PaulAllen.com website, one of the legacies left behind after the Microsoft co-founder’s death last October. Click on the links below for GeekWire’s coverage, and stay tuned for future discoveries from the Petrel.
- Sonar technology locates wreck of USS Indianapolis
- USS Lexington found 76 years after sinking
- USS Juneau wreck reawakens saga of Sullivan Brothers
- USS Helena survived Pearl Harbor but sank in 1943
- Petrel tracks down USS Hornet, where Doolittle Raid began
- Lost in 1943, USS Strong is found again by Petrel
- Petrel finds out where USS Wasp’s odyssey ended
- Petrel visits the remains of Australian WWI sub
- Japanese battleship Hiei surveyed
“Pacific War Megawrecks” has its premiere as part of the series “Drain the Oceans” at 9 p.m. Monday on the National Geographic Channel, but check local listings for the complete schedule.