UPDATE: This post was supposed to be all about MUSASHI (and it will be) but first I want to acknowledge the passing of an amazing lady in the submarine community: Mary Bentz. Mary lost her uncle aboard the submarine GRUNION, and helped locate surviving family so they could stay informed of the hunt and later memorial after GRUNION was found. Not satisfied with stopping there, Mary and her husband Dick became part of a small, tightly knit community of genealogists who worked constantly (but went into overtime when a sub was discovered) to find surviving family members of the 52 lost subs of WWII. When FLIER came to light in 2009, she joined my small FLIER group, finding the final families. She was amazing, and so encouraging to someone like me, young and in my first museum/research job following college. She even pulled records out of the National Archives for me once, since I live too far away to go. The memorials for submarines GRUNION, WAHOO, LAGARTO, FLIER, R-12, PERCH and others, could not have happened as well as they did without her. Even though she was not a sailor, I feel it’s okay to say, “Sailor Rest Your Oar”. Know that you’ll be missed deeply, Mary, not only by me. I can only hope to have half the impact you did. Rest in Peace.
One of the last, large WWII battleships still hiding is hidden no longer. After eight years of research in three countries, the team of Paul Allen has found the MUSASHI and are currently surveying the wreck (or rather the large debris field near the two largest parts of the MUSASHI remaining.) And even better still, rather than sharing selected clips and images for press releases then saving most of the footage for a documentary (where only a selection of footage will be used) the Allen team gave a live tour, including clips from earlier dives so the average person could see MUSASHI all for themselves if they wanted.
First of all: depth. How deep is MUSASHI, visually? According to the Allen team, she’s 3,887 feet/1,185m deep, or almost 3/4 mile down (1.185 km, gotta love metrics here!)
I know many loved my “Sub Wreck Depths” diagram, so I made it a sister with famous battleships (plus the Submarine FLIER, of course, this is a USS FLIER blog, or a FLIER-inspired blog!). Up on the upper right you can also see a scale model of the MY OCTOPUS, the ship that’s the base for the ongoing survey of MUSASHI (the size of the wreck insignias are not in scale to each other, but the depth is at the correct scale, and OCTOPUS is correct scale for the depth.) I was going to put the German Battleship BISMARCK on this diagram, but quickly discovered it would have to be much, much, much taller. As it is, the original document was nearly 100 cm long! (In the original document, the OCTOPUS is 4 cm Stem to Stern–if you click on the image, it’ll show larger)
The OCTOPUS herself is a fascinating vessel, and she’s already been used for other vessel surveys and recoveries, including HOOD (see bottom of chart). I loved the portions of the tour that included the OCTOPUS itself and the technology that made finding MUSASHI possible. The amazing improvements in sonar tech and HD camera ROVs was incredible as well.
When FLIER was located, the search ship essentially gridded out the most likely area based on the best research available from survivors, and “mowed the lawn”–moving back and forth across the planned grid dragging the sonar array behind it. Doing this can be somewhat risky. Most Sonar has to be a minimum distance from the sea floor, and cannot work past a certain height above a seafloor. This makes working in any wreck or underwater mountainous areas very difficult to accurately depict. The new Sonar, in use on the OCTOPUS is FREE SWIMMING. They program the grid location and parameters in, program what height they want it to remain above the ocean floor (say, 500 feet) then let her go! She swims off, and uses her Sonar to maintain that consistent distance from the ocean’s floor, giving the resulting Sonar images STARTLING clarity. Even seeing them on the screen aboard the OCTOPUS through a camera and on a youtube window, it was so crisp.
While MUSASHI sank in one piece, she is savagely broken on the ocean’s floor. About her forward third is still intact (Bow to first Barbette) but the stern is upside down, and the items on the stern deck are found hundreds of meters away. The Bridge is an astonishing distance away.
Below you’ll see some rough notes I took on the wreck survey as it happened, and later, during a re-recording.
Over the next few days, I’ll do more posts about MUSASHI’s wreck, similarities between her wreck and some other WWII wrecks (especially YAMATO, there are some surface similarities between the wrecks of the two sisters.) For those who don’t regularly dig through wrecks, I hope, considering MUSASHI’s smashed condition, that what I write and diagram out will serve as a guide to help understand the Paul Allen team’s footage and photos. There is, of course, no substitute for the original footage and their narration thereof, I can’t recommend it enough. See their youtube channel here, and their official website here.
Hey Mr. Allen, if you’re looking for another challenging shipwreck in the Philippine area, ever hear of the SUBMARINE ROBALO? We don’t know where she sank (and there’s lots of debate over when…which directly affects where!). Finding her wreck would settle a lot of questions, not to mention bring peace to the eighty-one families who lost a man aboard her…we still don’t definitively know what happened to the four named survivors…Musashi Diagram i