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Researchers find second warship from Second World War Battle of Midway

by Ace Damon
Reviewing sonar scans of a warship

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A team of deep-sea explorers and historians looking for warships lost in World War II found a second Japanese aircraft carrier that sank in the historic Battle of Midway.

Vulcan Inc.'s director of underwater operations, Rob Kraft, and historian of Naval History and Heritage Command Frank Thompson reviewed images of the warship's high-frequency sonar on Sunday and say its dimensions and location mean that it must be the Akagi transporter.

The Akagi was found at the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument, which lies about 5,490 meters of water, more than 2,090 kilometers northwest of Pearl Harbor.

The researchers used an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, equipped with sonar to find the ship. The vehicle was out of the night to collect data, and the image of a battleship appeared in the first set of readings on Sunday morning.

The first scan used low resolution sonar, so the team sent their AUV back for high quality images.

"I'm sure what we are seeing here, the dimensions we can derive from this image (are) conclusive," said Kraft. "It can be none other than Akagi."

The ship is sitting between a pile of debris and the ground around the warship is clearly disturbed by the impact of hitting the seabed.

"She's sitting on the keel, we can see the bow, we can see the stern clearly, you can see some of the gun positions there, you can see that some parts of the cockpit are also torn and missing, so you can actually , look exactly where the cockpit would be, "said Kraft.

The discovery comes in the wake of the discovery of another Japanese carrier, Kaga, last week.

"We read about the battles, we know what happened. But when you see these wrecks on the bottom of the ocean and everything else, you realize the real price of the war," said Frank Thompson, historian of the Naval History and Naval Heritage Command in Washington, DC, which is aboard the Petrel. "You see the damage caused by these things, and it is humiliating to watch some videos of these vessels because they are war graves."

So far, only one of the seven ships that sank in the June 1942 air and sea battle – five Japanese and two American ships – had been located.

Research crew Petrel hopes to find and search for all the lost ships of the Battle of Midway in 1942, which historians consider to be a crucial US fight in the Pacific during World War II.

The battle was fought between US and Japanese aircraft carriers and warplanes about 200 miles from Midway Atoll, a former military facility that the Japanese hoped to capture in a surprise attack.

The US, however, intercepted Japanese communications about the strike and was waiting when it arrived. More than 2,000 Japanese and 300 Americans died.

The expedition is an effort initiated by the late Paul Allen, Microsoft's billionaire co-founder. For years, the 76-meter Petrel crew has worked with the US Navy and other authorities around the world to locate and document sunken ships. To date, more than 30 vessels have been found.

Kraft says the team's mission began with Allen's desire to honor his father's military service. Allen died last year.

"It really goes beyond that right now," said Kraft. "We're honoring service members today, it's about education and, you know, bringing the story back to life for future generations."

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