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After 78 Years, Autonomous Underwater Robots Locate Sunken WWII Destroyer

Monday May 29, 2023. 01:34 PM , from Slashdot
'Over the past 13 years, Tim Taylor and Christine Dennison have scoured the ocean floor using autonomous underwater robots,' according to a history writer's commentary on CNN, 'to discover and document the wrecks of seven US submarines lost in World War II.'
Taylor and Dennison are ensuring that more families of those lost know where their loved ones' deep-water graves reside. They are racing against time as underwater development threatens many of these wrecks... Budget constraints hinder the Navy from devoting resources to undertaking these kinds of searches, according to Taylor, and his team is showing how private groups can fill the gap.
A philanthropic private investment group funds the expeditions, the article points out, adding that Taylor and Dennison 'hope to employ the special autonomous underwater technology they created to help others map the ocean floor for environmental and other purposes.'
Their latest find was part of the 82-day battle of Okinawa in 1945:

The USS Mannert L. Abele, which the explorers found 4,500 feet under the Pacific Ocean and 81 miles from the nearest landmass, was the first American ship sunk by an unusual type of rocket-powered Japanese kamikaze plane... Though the Abele managed to shoot down two aircraft and damage or fend off others, at six minutes in, a Japanese fighter plunged into the destroyer's engine room and exploded, cutting off all electrical power. Just a minute later, another, much more unusual, plane slammed into the destroyer's hull. The Abele had been struck by a unique rocket-propelled kamikaze plane called the MXY7 Ohka ('Cherry Blossom'), which due to its very short range had to be carried under the belly of a larger bomber until close to US ships, whereupon it was released to soar toward its target at immense speed.

The detonation of this manned missile's 1.3 tons of explosives caused the ship to seemingly break into two and begin sinking. In a matter of minutes, 84 sailors and officers had been killed. Japanese aircraft strafed the surviving crew as they jumped into the oil-slick water, but two smaller landing craft escorting the Abele shot down two more planes and beat off the rest, managing to rescue 255 crew members.
Nearly eight decades later, modern robotics technologies allowed Taylor and Dennison to find the destroyer's submerged hull. In the past, Taylor noted, it would have been practically inconceivable for a small, private team to have undertaken the cumbersome search process that, Taylor estimated, would have taken four to five times as long and cost significantly more money...

It was on their last remaining day of a more-than-month-long search, just before bad weather would force them to conclude the expedition, that they spotted the Abele's wreck.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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