A groundbreaking exploration recently unveiled high-tech 3D images and video of the submerged relics of two World War II Japanese submarines resting 2,600 feet beneath the waves off the coast of Hawaii.
About the expedition: Led by Dr. Robert Ballard of Nautilus Live, the nonprofit group Ocean Exploration Trust conducted an expedition off Oʻahu's coast on Nov. 3 and 4, supported by the Office of Naval Research.
Images from the expedition shared on social media on Nov. 9 show the wreckage of the Imperial Japanese Navy vessels I-201 and I-401.
Using the K2 High-Resolution Mapping System with the Norbit multibeam echosounder, explorers aboard #EVNautilus created this three-dimensional image of I-201, a high-speed submarine built for the Imperial Japanese Navy during #WorldWarII. It rests 800m deep south of #Oahu. pic.twitter.com/sFeLWJOtft
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— E/V Nautilus (@EVNautilus) November 4, 2023
Revisiting historical relics: At the end of WWII, both vessels were surrendered to the U.S. Navy and intentionally scuttled off the coast of Oʻahu in 1946. Discovered by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory in the early 2000s, these vessels were the focus of the technology-testing expedition's return to examine changes in the sites since their last survey over a decade before
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The I-201: The released video footage, the first in 14 years of the wreckage, displays a surprisingly intact I-201 submarine adorned with the Japanese rising sun flag. Despite underwater corrosion, the 19-feet hull retains distinctive features, including shredded wires and a torpedo resembling a "Nerf gun."
The I-401: The exploration also unveiled the wreckage of the I-401, the largest submarine ever built until 1965. Although displaying more damage than its counterpart, the I-401's shiny metal and on-deck guns paint a vivid picture of the once-formidable instrument of destruction.
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Significant role in WWII: Japan's Imperial Navy built submarines at an unprecedented pace during WWII, yet internal conflicts prevented maximizing their fleet's potential. In contrast, U.S. submarines played a decisive role in the Pacific, destroying 55% of Axis power warships and 5.3 million tons of shipping. In the aftermath, the U.S. suffered the highest casualties among all armed forces with 52 submarines lost and 3,056 men killed.
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