US explorer beams long-lost Japan battleship wreck to world

2015-03-14 16:04
A wheel on a valve believed to be from a lower engineering area of World War II battleship Musashi after it was found in Sibuyan sea by Paul Aleen's research team. (AFP)

A wheel on a valve believed to be from a lower engineering area of World War II battleship Musashi after it was found in Sibuyan sea by Paul Aleen's research team. (AFP)

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Manila - The shattered wreck of a Japanese World War II battleship was shown lying on a Philippine seabed in startling detail on Friday, as the first images emerged from the historic discovery by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

American billionaire and explorer Allen announced the find of the Musashi - one of the most sophisticated battleships ever built - in the Sibuyan Sea in the central Philippines eight days ago, after a high-tech mission lasting eight years.

It was the latest of many searches for the ship, with its discovery coming some 70 years after it was sunk by US forces in World War II.

Giant gun turrets and propellers, a torpedo-damaged hull and a plane wing resting on silt were among the images beamed live by an unmanned mini-submarine from about a kilometre below the water's surface.

Human remains

"We think we're conveying something to the world which is significant. It also teaches us about the past and what happened," said Yannick Olson, captain of Allen's yacht, from where the mini-sub was being directed.

Excited historians have likened the discovery to finding the wreck of the Titanic, the famed British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg in 1912.

The wreck of the Musashi, partially buried and scattered over a large debris field, is also the presumed graveyard of some of the more than 1 000 crew members killed in the battle.

However, the video streamed on Allen's website showed no human remains.

"It's quite clear it didn't land on the bottom in one piece," Olson said. "The destruction was total."

Barnacles and light-coloured coral clung to the broken hull, propellers and anchor of the 263-metre ship, as well as on corroded sections of range-finders for the ship's guns, their armour plating ripped off.

Cultural heritage site

An eel was seen crawling out of the remains of the warship's aeroplane catapult, with instructions in Japanese script written on it, while two pink fish patrolled outside the hull.

The worn remains of the chrysanthemum seal of the Japanese emperor remained on the ship's bow.

Scott Matthews, a commentator for the live-stream, said the Allen expedition took two weeks to explore the debris field, which measured about 0.44 square kilometres.

The Philippine government said last weekend that it would take control of the wreck and co-ordinate with Allen over its exploration.

It said the wreck will most likely not be salvaged, the same as other Japanese World War II shipwrecks still lying in its waters, but will be preserved as a cultural heritage site.

Seattle-born Allen, 62, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, is the world's 51st richest person with a net worth of $17.5bn, according to Forbes Magazine.

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