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Wreckage of Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Hiei, first to be lost in WWII, discovered in Solomons

JIJI

Researchers have found the wreckage of the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Hiei, which sank in the South Pacific during World War II. It was the first Japanese vessel to be lost in the war.

The discovery on Jan. 31 by a team funded by Microsoft Corp.’s late cofounder Paul Allen is expected to help identify why the battleship sank, experts said.

The 150-meter-long rear section of the Hiei was found upside down at a depth of 985 meters, northwest of Savo Island in the Solomon Islands chain. The ship’s bow section, some 70 meters long, has so far not been found.

Video footage recorded by the team shows the battleship’s propellers, high-angle guns and a crate of shells.

“It is highly likely that an ammunition room on the battleship’s bow side exploded for some reason,” said Kazushige Todaka, director of the Kure Maritime Museum in Hiroshima Prefecture, after viewing the footage.

The Hiei’s crew is believed to have evacuated after scuttling the battleship, control of which was lost after it came under fire in a battle in November 1942. The battle killed 188 crew members aboard the vessel.

The discovery offers “an opportunity to reconsider the misery of the war,” Todaka said.

The survey team found another Imperial Japanese Navy battleship, the Musashi, on the seabed of the Sibuyan Sea in the Philippines in 2015.