Scientists have solved the longstanding mystery of a Japanese submarine missing since 1946 after stumbling across it in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii.
The Sen-Toku I-400 submarine - one of the largest pre-nuclear underwater vessels ever built - was discovered lying 2,300 feet beneath the surface of the ocean off the southwest coast of Oahu.

The whereabouts of the 400-foot long mega-vessel has been the subject of widespread academic debate since its disappearance in 1946 when it was preparing to attack the Panama Canal before being scuttled by US forces.

The vast submarine was a legendary feat of Japan's wartime engineering prowess, capable of circumnavigating the globe one-and-a-half times without refuelling and launching three folding-wing bombers within minutes of resurfacing. The I-400 was the first of a series of three submarines created by the Japanese military during the Second World War, with its sister vessel I-401 also found off the coast of Oahu eight years ago.

The most recent accidental discovery was made by a team of researchers led by Terry Kerby, operations director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, which searches for submarines and submerged cultural resources. Describing the find, he said: "The I-400 has been on our 'to-find' list for some time. It was the first of its kind of only three built, so it is a unique and very historic submarine.

"Finding it where we did was totally unexpected. All our research pointed to it being further out to sea. The multi-beam anomalies that appear on a bottom survey chart can be anything from wrecks to rocks–you don't know until you go there. "[My co-researchers] and I knew we were approaching what looked like a large wreck on our sonar. It was a thrill when the view of a giant submarine appeared out of the darkness."

The discovery, which was made in August 2013 but has only now been confirmed after verifying with the US and Japanese governments, brings to an end a decades-long mystery.

The wreckage was identified by its distinct aircraft launch ramp, deck crane and stern running lights, with its aircraft hanger broken off, the likely result of the three US Navy torpedo blasts that sunk it in 1946.

Describing its sophisticated technological prowess, James Delgado, a member of the discovery mission and director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said: "The I-400 is technologically significant due to the design features associated with its large watertight hangar. 

"Following World War II, submarine experimentation and design changes would continue in this direction, eventually leading to ballistic missile launching capabilities for U.S. submarines at the advent of the nuclear era."

1599 reads | 06.12.2013

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