Deep sea explorers hoping to discover sunken World War Two ships are launching underwater robots in an area where one of the most significant battles of the time took place.
The crew of US research vessel Petrel is scouring the Pacific for warships from the famed Battle of Midway, which is considered by historians to be an essential US victory and a key turning point in WWII.
Weeks of searches around the northwestern Hawaiian Islands – roughly halfway between the US and Japan – have already unearthed one sunken warship, the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga.
Image: The main wreckage of the Kaga had been missing until now
A piece of the Kaga was found in 1999 but its main wreckage had been missing until now.
The Petrel first used sonar technology to locate the ship, then sent underwater robots to investigate and film.
The footage was compared with historical records and confirmed to be the Kaga.
Until this discovery, only one of the seven ships that was sunk in the Battle of Midway had been located.
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More than 2,000 Japanese soldiers and 300 Americans were killed in the battle, which took place six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour.
The attack from the Japanese Imperial Navy was intended to be a surprise, but US analysts managed to intercept Japanese messages and take the upper hand.
Image: Explorers have been searching the Pacific near the northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Four of Japan’s aircraft carriers and a cruiser, as well as dozens of fighter planes, were downed by US forces.
The US lost two ships – the USS Yorktown, which was already heavily damaged when it was hit by torpedos, and the USS Hammann, which went down trying to defend the Yorktown.
Retired Navy captain Jack Crawford, who recently turned 100, was among the Yorktown’s 2,270 survivors.
He described the moment the torpedoes hit: “Bam! Bam! We get two torpedoes, and I know we’re in trouble. As soon as the deck edge began to go under, I knew she wasn’t going to last.”
Image: The Battle of Midway was a significant WWII fight
Although Mr Crawford does not see much value in finding the lost warships, he did say he would not mind if someone could retrieve his strongbox and the brand-new sword he left in it.
The Petrel crew will be investigating the possible discovery of another ship from the fight this week.
“We read about the battles, we know what happened. But when you see these wrecks on the bottom of the ocean and everything, you kind of get a feel for what the real price is for war,” said historian Frank Thompson, who is onboard the Petrel.
“You see the damage these things took, and it’s humbling to watch some of the video of these vessels because they’re war graves.”
Image: Scientists used underwater robots to film the shipwreck
The expedition was launched by the late Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, and has found 31 vessels so far.
It is illegal to otherwise disturb the US military gravesites and the exact co-ordinates are kept secret.
Source : Sky News