KATHMANDU, March 4: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen says he has found the wreck of a long-lost World War 2 Japanese battleship near the Philippines.
The philanthropist posted images on Twitter that appeared to show the Musashi, once one of the two largest warships in the world. The discovery was made aboard his superyacht, the MY Octopus, as part of an expedition launched by Allen.
The search has taken Allen and his team of researchers more than eight years.
The images, along with video that will later be released, were taken by an unmanned submersible deployed from the vessel.
“Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” said Allen in a statement.
“The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction. I am honored to play a part in finding this key vessel in naval history and honoring the memory of the incredible bravery of the men who served aboard her.”
He used his twitter account to publicize the find. In one tweet, he said one image showed the bow of the ship, which features a distinctive chrysanthemum — the flower is the emblem of Japan’s royal family — and a huge anchor.
The other underwater photograph shows one of the Musashi’s valves, on which the Japanese characters for “main valve handle” and “open” are legible.
He said the writing on the valve was proof that the ship was of Japanese origin.
he director of Japan’s Kure Maritime Museum told CNN after viewing the information posted by Allen that it appeared that the vessel was the Musashi, although further pictures were needed to know for sure.
The Musashi was one of two “Yamato” class battleships constructed by the Japanese imperial navy.
At the time, it was the largest class of warship ever constructed, displacing more than 69,000 tons. It was sunk in the Philippines by the U.S. Navy in October 1944, with the loss of over 1,000 crew.
One kilometer deep
Allen said that his superyacht, the MY Octopus, had found the wreck in the Sibuyan Sea in the central Philippines, at a depth of around 1,000 meters (3281 feet).
A statement released by Vulcan, Allen’s company, said that the team combined historical data with advanced technology to narrow the search area, and that Allen had “commissioned a hypsometric bathymetric survey of the ocean floor to determine the terrain” before searching the area with a Bluefin autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).
His twitter feed promises upcoming video of other elements of the ship, including the launching catapult and gun turrets.
Kazushige Todaka, the museum director, said that, given the location and the depth at which the wreck was found, he was “90% sure” that the ship was the Musashi.
“I was really surprised because the location of the sunken ship has never been identified since it went down. I have heard countless stories in the past that the ship was discovered, but they all turned out not to be true.”
Todaka said Allen’s team had been in contact with the museum about the ship’s potential location, and their expedition.
“It’s a wonderful discovery, if it’s true, as we have long been looking for the battleship,” he said.
“It’s fateful that the discovery was made on the 70th anniversary of (the end of) World War 2. The memory of the war has been fading away after 70 years and the survivors of the war are disappearing. It is very meaningful discovery and a good chance for us to remind ourselves about the war and its tragedy.”
He added that images of the entire body of the ship will be needed to be 100% sure that the discovery is indeed the Musashi.
The Vulcan statement added that the team is “mindful of the responsibility related to the wreckage of the Musashi as a war grave and intend to work with the Japanese government to ensure the site is treated respectfully and in accordance with Japanese traditions.”
Since leaving Microsoft, the company he co-founded in 1975, billionaire Allen has immersed himself in a variety of commercial and charitable pursuits.
He is the owner of several U.S. sports teams — including losing Super Bowl finalists the Seattle Seahawks — and backed SpaceShipOne, the prototype commercial spaceplane which won the 2004 Ansari X-prize.
His estimated net worth is $17.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.