The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: war

The Japanese Mini-Subs of the Pearl Harbor. Terry Kerby on a Discovery that Rewrote History. A Scuttlefish Feature.


Terry Kerby at the viewing port of the deep sea sub, Pisces V. He was looking through this view port when he found a tiny Japanese submarine that rewrote the history of World War II.
Photo: Chris Dixon

Last week, The New York Times published a story I wrote that posed a question: Do Humans Have a Future in Deep Sea Exploration? The story focused on a pioneering deep sea submersible pilot named Terry Kerby and the laboratory he oversees on Oahu’s windward coast. The laboratory, part of the University of Hawaii and better known as HURL, has been the most important United States deep-sea research outpost in the mid-Pacific since the 1980s. As HURL’s chief pilot, Kerby is perhaps the most experienced submersible navigator alive. With a crew of five, Mr. Kerby and his twin Pisces submarines have discovered more than 140 wrecks and artifacts, recovered tens of millions of dollars in lost scientific equipment, and surveyed atolls and seamounts whose hydrothermal vents and volcanoes were unknown.



Kerby’s discoveries, made alongside the likes of Dr. Robert Ballard and Dr. Sylvia Earle, have rewritten the history of World War II and changed our very understanding of the deep ocean. But in 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it would be cutting off the meager funding that helped keep HURL and its subs afloat. Today, Kerby faces the possible mothballing of his fleet – and the world faces the loss of ¼ of the planet’s human-piloted deep subs. The forces at play are the same as in many other realms of science — dwindling budgets – NOAA’s deep sea exploration budget is $26 million per year, while NASA’s space exploration budget is on the order of $4 billion. Then, of course, there’s the issue of robots.

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16,000 Pounds of Cocaine in a Homemade Submarine and the Biggest Drug Bust in USCG History


The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton approach the suspected vessel on July 19th. Photo: Lanola Stone/Coast Guard via AFP – Getty Images.

$181 million dollars is the estimated value of the 300+ bales–16,000 pounds–of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard 200 miles off the coast of Mexico last month, what is apparently the largest confiscation of illicit drugs in the force’s history.

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“The OceanMaker”, A Remarkable Post-Apocalyptic Film About a World Without Water

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Screenshot from “OceanMakers”.

Imagine a day when the rivers and the seas dry up and water becomes more valuable than crack cocaine. In light of California’s current crisis, conjuring such a prospect should present little difficulty.  The world as it turns stops dead in its tracks. Oil, gold and money all seem precious little, suddenly. Begin World War III.

“The OceanMaker”, a post-apocalyptic doomsday feature film about life after the seas have dried up brings us the tale of a dauntless young girl who takes to the skies to fight for control over earth’s last water reserve: the clouds.

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Screenshot from “OceanMakers”.

The imagery–the setting–conjures up the gloominess of early German expressionism or Daliesque surrealism, which thoroughly compliments the not-too-far-off otherworldliness of the story.

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Screenshot from “OceanMakers”.

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150 Abandoned WWII Aircraft Discovered off the Marshall Islands in the Pacific by Wisconsin Diver


“They should have flown more, lived longer,” said Brandi, “but they were sunk in perfect condition”–most of them, at least.

Over 70 years have gone by since these aircraft were lost to the western Pacific, and, lo and behold, a Wisconsin woman just happened to come across the graveyard of what is estimated to be over 150 planes that were lost after being decommissioned and dumped in 130 feet of water at the end of World War II.


A cockpit, stripped by the sea.

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This Is the First Archeological Survey of the USS Independence, Pride of WWII Aircraft Carriers


“After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes,” said James Delgado, chief scientist of the Independence mission. The ship lies almost perfectly upright, only slightly listing to starboard. Image: NOAA

An ongoing mandate to locate and assess the condition of some 300 shipwrecks within California’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, the U.S. Navy, and some unspecified private business partners have surveyed the USS Independence, the United States’ lead light aircraft ship during World War II. The Independence was stationed on the central and western Pacific stage during the war, and was one of over 90 vessels present during “Operation Crossroads,” the famous series of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests which took place off Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands during the summer of 1946.

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Smile with an Intent to Do Mischief – Why Is China Really Making Islands in the South China Sea?


Above: A March 16 satellite image shows China’s recent progress on Mischief Reef. Image: CreditCenter for Strategic and International Studies, via Digital Globe

The South China Sea is one of the most heavily trafficked commercial waterways and fishing grounds in the world. Oil and natural gas were discovered in the Spratly Islands in 1968. How large those reserves may be is anyone’s guess; they remain vastly unexplored, but every southeast Asian nation within a stone’s throw away has been grappling to claim ownership in the decades since. Last year, China began a coral-smothering dredging project to create more islands – seemingly with that very idea in mind.

“We are building shelters, aids for navigation, search and rescue as well as marine meteorological forecasting services, fishery services and other administrative services,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reported in a news briefing.


Mischief Reef, January 24, 2012 (left) and March 16, 2015 (right). Images: NYT/Center for Strategic and International Studies via Digital Globe

135 miles to the west of Palawan Island in the Philippines, China is creating an artificial island by dredging sand and burying the coral on Mischief Reef, an aptly named atoll which they laid claim to in 1995. 200 miles to the west of Mischief Reef is Fiery Cross Reef, atop which China has already established an artificial reef almost two miles long and 1,000 feet wide.

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The Mystery of the Chinese Flag Discovered on a WWII Japanese Shipwreck off Palau

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This Chinese flag was discovered fastened to a 1944 WWII Japanese shipwreck, and no one knows who did it. Screenshot from Kyodo News’ YouTube video (below)

Japanese divers returning to the site of the Japanese warship Iro were very distressed when they came upon the newly fixed ensign aboard what is not only an archeological site, but a graveyard for many of their countrymen.

The meter-long flag had been attached to the remnants of the ship’s stern with zip ties, and it was reported that whoever (or whichever organization) placed it there had gone to some trouble in order to do so.

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“Dead Wake.” Read Hampton Sides’ Masterful Review of Erik Larson’s New Book on the Sinking of the Lusitania.

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Image: John Shuley & Company/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Few tales in history are more haunting, more tangled with investigatory mazes or more fraught with toxic secrets than that of the final voyage of the Lusitania, one of the colossal tragedies of maritime history. It’s the other Titanic, the story of a mighty ship sunk not by the grandeur of nature but by the grimness of man. On May 7, 1915, the four-funneled, 787-foot Cunard superliner, on a run from New York to Liverpool, encountered a German submarine, the U-20, about 11 miles off the coast of Ireland. The U-boat’s captain, Walther Schwieger, was pleased to discover that the passenger steamer had no naval escort. Following his government’s new policy of unrestricted warfare, Schwieger fired a single torpedo into her hull. Less than half a minute later, a second explosion shuddered from somewhere deep within the bowels of the vessel, and she listed precariously to starboard…

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