Posted: October 21, 2019

WWII Japanese warships discovered off Midway by R/V Petrel

Kaga gun mount.
Kaga gun mount. Credit: R/V Petrel/Vulcan Inc.
Kaga barbette.
Kaga barbette. Credit: R/V Petrel/Vulcan Inc.
Sonar image of Akagi.
Sonar image of Akagi. Credit: R/V Petrel/Vulcan Inc.
Imperial Japanese Navy Carrier Kaga in 1936.
Imperial Japanese Navy Carrier Kaga in 1936. Credit: Yamato Museum

During extensive underwater surveying of the Battle of Midway site, the Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, owned and operated by Vulcan Inc., discovered long lost wreckage from the battle.

On October 16 the R/V Petrel crew was able to identify ship remains as those of the Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga. On October 20, they identified sonar images of the Japanese flagship Akagi. The 1942 Battle of Midway was a decisive naval battle during World War II that occurred six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

The crew aboard R/V Petrel spent several weeks surveying the massive area, documenting more than 500 square nautical miles, all within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The wreckage of both ships was found 5,400 meters (more than 17,000 feet) below the surface.

The Battle of Midway in June 1942 was an important element in the designation of the monument. Shipwrecks and submerged aircraft reflect and interpret crucial events in the Pacific. Discoveries in the deep ocean can reveal brand new information on this turning point in the war.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program have been investigating the naval shipwrecks and submerged aircraft lost during all of the war years in the shallower waters adjacent to Midway Atoll since 2003. WWII discoveries around Midway include USS Macaw and WWII era aircraft such as the P-40K Warhawk, F4U Corsair and Brewster Buffalo. These sites reflect the significance of Midway Atoll as a naval air station and a submarine base. Partners like Vulcan's R/V Petrel are essential to great maritime heritage discoveries.