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11-05-09
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UH team locates
huge Japanese sub


Researchers discover the
wreckage of a giant underwater
aircraft carrier scuttled after WWII


Exploring the South Pacific


By Burl Burlingame
[email protected]


The deep-diving scientists of the University of Hawaii have discovered another monster lurking in the waters off Oahu.

During test dives Thursday, the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces submarines found the remains of the Imperial Japanese Navy's I-401 submarine, a gigantic underwater aircraft carrier built to bomb the Panama Canal.

"We thought it was rocks at first, it was so huge," said Pisces pilot Terry Kerby. "But the sides of it kept going up and up and up, three and four stories tall. It's a leviathan down there, a monster."

It is not the first World War II-era "monster" that the HURL scientists have found. Last year, off Pearl Harbor, they located the wreck of the gigantic seaplane Marshall Mars, one of the largest aircraft built and used as a transport plane by the U.S. Navy. Two years earlier in the same area, the HURL crew also found the wreckage of a Japanese midget sub that was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941.

The latest HURL discovery is from the I-400 "Sensuikan Toku" class of submarines, the largest built prior to the nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the 1960s. They were 400 feet long and 39.3 feet high, could reach a maximum depth of 330 feet, and carry a crew of 144.

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An undersea photo reveals the bridge of the Imperial Japanese Navy's I-401 submarine. The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces submarines discovered the "monster" in waters off Kalaeloa on Thursday.


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</IMAGEMARK>Each carried three fold-up bombers inside a watertight hangar, plus parts to construct a fourth airplane. The bombers, called Seiran or "Mountain Haze," could be made ready to fly in a few minutes and had wing floats for return landings. Fully loaded with fuel, the submarines could sail 37,000 miles, one and a half times around the world. Three were captured at the end of the war, as well as a slightly smaller test design called the I-14.



Their first mission was called "Operation PX," a plan to use the aircraft to drop infected rats and insects with bubonic plague, cholera, dengue fever, typhus and other diseases on American West Coast cities. When the bacteriological bombs could not be prepared in time, the target was changed to the Panama Canal.

I-400 and I-401 were captured at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. The commander committed suicide and the huge submarines' mission was never completed.

I-400, I-401 and I-14 were ordered to sail to Pearl Harbor in late 1945 with an American prize crew, who smuggled Japanese war souvenirs in the aircraft hangars. Also along to be evaluated were I-201 and I-203, two top-secret Imperial Navy submarines that were twice as fast as American designs.

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</IMAGEMARK>The submarines were greeted with ceremonial brass bands in early 1946, but within a few months it was decided to scuttle the Japanese designs, partly because Russians scientists were demanding access to them. On May 31, 1946, I-401 and the other four top-secret Japanese submarines were sunk by torpedoes from the American submarine USS Cabezon. I-401 was last seen sinking by the stern, vanishing until last week.



"It's about 820 meters down, off the coast of Barbers Point," said HURL Acting Director John Wiltshire. "The bow is broken off just forward of the aircraft hangar -- it looks like it came apart as it was sinking, as the two pieces aren't far apart and they're connected by a debris field."

According to Pisces VI pilots Kerby and Colin Wolleman, the "debris field" is a twisted landscape of gigantic metal pieces ripped into jagged shreds.

"We had to be very careful approaching that thing," said Wolleman.

Nearby, the Pisces V crew consisted of John Smith, Max Cremer and Steve Price, and the submersibles helped each other illuminate a path through the wreckage.

"The main hull is sitting upright on the bottom, and it's in great shape," said Kerby. "The I-401 numbers are clearly visible on the sides of the conning tower, and the antiaircraft guns are in almost perfect condition."

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<TABLE width="95%"><TBODY><TR><TD>U.S. NAVY PHOTO
Officers of the I-400 submarine gathered for one last portrait as Americans captured it and the I-401 at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945.


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</IMAGEMARK>With only a few hours available before setting off on a research trip to Samoa, the HURL scientists noted the location of the I-401 for future exploration.



Also discovered last week was the American submarine S-19, a World War I-era design that was deliberately scuttled in 1938 to meet treaty obligations.

"The S-boat wasn't much of a surprise, because we had a good idea of where she might be," said Kerby.

He said the S-19 is lying on her starboard side, and many of the external parts, such as the propellers and conning tower, were removed prior to scuttling. "We came up to her from behind, and you could tell immediately she was from a different era," said Kerby. "Almost a turn-of-the-century, Jules Verne look to her. Lots of big rivets."
 

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I saw that on CNN.com the other day. Pretty cool. Supposedly they were going to do some bio warfare with them.
 

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Still Serving Time
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i think it would be kinda cool to explore for ship wrecks... in a kinda sick way. a ton of ships/subs/boats/ etc down there.
 

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SC457A said:
i think it would be kinda cool to explore for ship wrecks... in a kinda sick way. a ton of ships/subs/boats/ etc down there.
BAD idea to explore old warships. It might seem cool, but remember these ships have been underwater since 1940's. Thats around 60 years underwater. These ships could collapse at anytime, not to meantion if you touch any live ammunition it could go off. Besides MANY warships are considered Grave Tomes for the dead and should NOT be disturbed...
 

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Dacotua said:
BAD idea to explore old warships. It might seem cool, but remember these ships have been underwater since 1940's. Thats around 60 years underwater. These ships could collapse at anytime, not to meantion if you touch any live ammunition it could go off. Besides MANY warships are considered Grave Tomes for the dead and should NOT be disturbed...
i dont mean go inside the ships. just finding and looking at the ships from the outside would be enough for me. i know all about the controversy about the Titanic site and other major ship wrecks about being graves... besides might be haunted ;) . i just think it would be cool to look at the ships, see what happened after they sank. like the Bismark, british claimed they sank it, but germans claimed they scuttled the ship with charges, when they found the 'mark, they tried to determine what sank it. had issues with mud.. coudlnt tell.
 

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Damn, that's cool. Those Sen-Toku types are monstrous. The other 2, the I.400 and the I.402 were surrendered at the end of the war. And the I.404 was bombed in port.
 

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Make 7 Up Yours
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Great post! Those guys must have been going to do something really kick ass to leave that wreck for future exploration.
 

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Fox466 said:
I can agree with the tombs part, and even the ammo part, but the steel collapsing part I'm gonna hafta ask for references on... :p


And badass post Louis.

Nothing like real history in the present day. Just wish I could be there when it's discovered and all. :cool:
About the Steel Collapsing.

Everyone has seen a old barn that the roof has caved in on, or an old building.

Ships are the same way underwater. Saltwater is very corrosive to metal ships and it shows after a period of time underwater. Rivets, welds, and other fasteners corrode, after time they just give. The ship will eventually fall apart underwater and collapse upon themselves. Everyone has seen the pictures of the titantic, look at all the rust trails on that ship. Even the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor is at risk on collapsing on itself. The USS Arizona Memorial crews will even admit in time the ship will collapse completely.

I dont have a problem with someone looking outside a ship (Like the Bismark, Arizona, or any ship sunk during a conflict). However I dont think anyone should go inside those or take anything from the site, as to me, its the same as a coffin.

There are alternatives to diving on ship wrecks for example. Off Florida the civil authority routinely sinks unmanned ships for a artificial reef. Again I wouldn't venture far inside them unless they are deemed safe (having the hulls tested to see how much corrosion has taken place).
 

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Dacotua said:
About the Steel Collapsing.

Everyone has seen a old barn that the roof has caved in on, or an old building.

Ships are the same way underwater. Saltwater is very corrosive to metal ships and it shows after a period of time underwater. Rivets, welds, and other fasteners corrode, after time they just give. The ship will eventually fall apart underwater and collapse upon themselves. Everyone has seen the pictures of the titantic, look at all the rust trails on that ship. Even the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor is at risk on collapsing on itself. The USS Arizona Memorial crews will even admit in time the ship will collapse completely.

I dont have a problem with someone looking outside a ship (Like the Bismark, Arizona, or any ship sunk during a conflict). However I dont think anyone should go inside those or take anything from the site, as to me, its the same as a coffin.

There are alternatives to diving on ship wrecks for example. Off Florida the civil authority routinely sinks unmanned ships for a artificial reef. Again I wouldn't venture far inside them unless they are deemed safe (having the hulls tested to see how much corrosion has taken place).
And that's one of the reasons why Bob Ballard used an unmanned submersible to go through the Titanic.
 

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Dacotua said:
I dont have a problem with someone looking outside a ship (Like the Bismark, Arizona, or any ship sunk during a conflict). However I dont think anyone should go inside those or take anything from the site, as to me, its the same as a coffin.
ummm i think technology wise it is impossible for a diver to go in most sunken ships... the Yorktown was found in 1998 around midway... 16,000 feet of water.. 3 miles deep!!!! thats a lot of water on top of ya, but they say it looks awsome for a ship sunk in 1942. but i agree, even if possible... i would NOT want to go into it. even the Arizona in relatively shallow waters.

Ballard kicks butt!!! some real good info on national geographic web site on some of the wrecks he has found.
 

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Dont get me wrong, I love looking at sunken ships, just I have a thing about sunken warships lost in action. Ships like the HMS Hood, DMK Bismark, USS Arizona, JPN Yamato, etc... all had casualties over 800 men. I think theres a duty to keep those wrecks from looters. Thats why wrecks like the USS Yorktown are kept secret. To me, those ships are to be viewed as a grave, ok to look at from a distance, but dont go into them.
 

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when the yorktown sank... she was abandoned :p but the others... well we know that story. bis had 2200 crew.. 115 rescued. ouch.

i see your point. but actually going into most ships is impossible cept for an RV. i personally hate all the "graverobbing" at the titanic. it has turned into a freaking tourist stop if you can afford the money for a trip.
 
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