Two giant second world war-era undersea vessels capable of launching seaplanes lie on seabed near USS Kailua, well-preserved despite 1946 sinking by torpedo.
Researchers at the University of Hawaii have discovered a miraculously preserved “ghost ship” on the seabed off Oahu, alongside the wrecks of several Japanese submarines.
The “ghost ship”, as the researchers who discovered the vessel have called it, rests more than 600 metres below the surface 20 miles from the island of Oahu, where it has lain for more than 60 years. The ship is resting upright on the ocean floor; all its upper deck structures remain intact. Even its mast is still erect.
Before it was sunk as a torpedo target for submarines in 1946, the ship was known as the USS Kailua. Before that, it was the Dickenson, built for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company as a layer of submarine cables.
The Dickenson was chartered by the US navy during the second world war, servicing submarine nets and service cables. After the war, no longer needed by either the cable company or the navy, it was sunk by torpedo for target practice.
Because of the ship’s violent end, researchers have expressed astonishment about how well-preserved the wreck is.
“Seeing the ship come into view, we were all amazed at its level of preservation – and by the fact that everything was more or less in place, said James Delgado, director of the maritime heritage programme at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a press release on Friday.
The Dickenson is one of a large number of wrecks from the Battle of the Pacific that litter the seabed off Oahu.
Other wrecks there, according to sonar surveys by the University of Hawaii’s Undersea Research Laboratory, include a Japanese midget submarine sunk in the opening hour of the attack on Pearl Harbor – and two huge Japanese aircraft carrier submarines.
The carrier submarines were 400ft-long undersea behemoths, designed to surface, launch a cargo of three specially designed Seiran seaplane bombers from their watertight aircraft hangars using a deck catapult, and then quickly submerge again before they could be detected.
Until the construction of nuclear ballistic missile-carrying submarines began in the 60s, the I-400 class were the largest submarines ever built.
Only two ever entered active service, and they were both captured by the US navy in 1945 after the surrender of Japan, and then scuttled off Oahu to prevent the technology falling into Soviet hands.