Historic Japanese battleship wreck identified
A shipwreck found last year in the Solomon Islands has been confirmed as the first Japanese battleship to be sunk by American forces during World War Two. The identification was made as the result of an expedition carried out by the US research vessel Petrel.
Japanese researchers had originally located the remains of what they thought to be the IJN Hiei through sonar scanning at a depth of 985m in Iron Bottom Sound, north-west of Savo Island.
The ship had been reported sunk there during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, though there had long been confusion about the exact position of the sinking.
8 February 2019
Confirmation came after Petrel, the expedition vessel operated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died last October, sent ROVs down to examine the inverted wreck.
One of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s first modern warships, the Hiei was designed by British naval architect George Thurston, commissioned in 1914 and patrolled the Chinese and Korean coasts during WW1.
Upgraded to a fast battleship just before WW2, she acted as an escort for the aircraft-carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941, and went on to see action in the Pacific at the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal.
At Guadalcanal on 13 November, 1942, the Hiei came under heavy fire from US forces. Her steering failed, and as she went round in circles the onslaught from US aircraft continued until the crew were forced to abandon ship. The crippled vessel was scuttled with torpedoes by escort destroyers.
Of the complement of 1360 sailors, 188 died in action.
The Petrel, which is continuing its “public outreach” mission to locate historic shipwrecks, carries an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) as well as an ROV, enabling it to search sites more than three miles beneath the surface.