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A 7-inch gun on the sunken Japanese carrier IJN Kaga. (Vulcan Photo)

The Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, owned and operated by the late Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc., continues to locate historic shipwrecks on the ocean floor, this time discovering for the first time ever a sunken Japanese aircraft carrier.

Vulcan announced Friday that remains of the IJN Kaga, a carrier lost during the 1942 Battle of Midway, had been identified on Wednesday. The wreckage was found more than 17,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific after Petrel surveyed 500 square nautical miles of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Update, Monday, Oct. 21: A second Japanese aircraft carrier was located and identified over the weekend, according to Vulcan and a report by The Associated Press. Researchers said high frequency sonar images of the warship, revealing dimensions and location, point to the ship being the IJN Akagi. The carrier was located 1,300 northwest of Pearl Harbor.

“This project is significantly different from previous missions as it required a level of investigation, analysis and survey of a carrier-based engagement initially separated by over 150 nautical miles,” Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan, said in a news release. “It was a major carrier-to-carrier battle that left its eerie evidence strewn for a total area covering thousands of square nautical miles across the ocean floor. With each piece of debris and each ship we discover and identify, our intent is to honor history and those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their countries.”

The Battle of Midway occurred six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Navy battled an attacking Japanese Navy fleet near Midway from June 4 – 7, 1942.

The R/V Petrel is seen at sea. (Vulcan Photo)
A gun mount on the IJN Kaga. (Vulcan Photo)

Four Japanese and three American aircraft carriers took part, and the four Japanese fleet carriers — Kaga, Akagi, Sōryū and Hiryū, part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier — were all sunk, as was the heavy Japanese cruiser Mikuma.

The U.S. lost carrier Yorktown and destroyer Hammann, 145 aircraft and more than 300 seamen.

“On the occasion of the discovery of the Kaga, we send our thoughts and prayers to our trusted and valued friends in Japan,” Rear Adm. Brian P. Fort, commander, Naval Forces Japan, said in a statement. “The terrible price of war in the Pacific was felt by all our navies. From that painful lesson, we have become the closest of allies and friends committed to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The crew of the 250-foot Petrel has discovered more than 30 sunken warships, with previous finds including the USS Indianapolis, the USS Lexington, the USS Juneau, the USS Helena and the USS Hornet.

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