Charles Davis

The last week of February saw the MV Octopus, the personal yacht of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, sitting at one of the docks in Subic Bay Philippines. Of course, rumors flourished why one of the largest and one of the most recognized yachts in the world was visiting us.  The world learned the reason just a few days later and none of the rumors were correct. Paul Allen is interested in oceanography and maritime history, his “yacht” is also one of the most advance oceanographic research vessels in the world. Through his foundation, he loans his yacht to scientific programs and he funds a number of research projects. The foundation also does projects on their own.  A few days after leaving Subic Bay, Paul Allen announced to the world they had found the WWII Battleship  IJN Musuashi.

At the beginning of WWII, a navy's power was measured in her battleships. The Musuashi and her older sister the Yamato where the secret weapon of Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). They were the largest battleships every built and they were built in complete secrecy. When U.S. Naval intelligence did start to hear rumors of the ships, they just dismissed them as propaganda messages, Battleship could not be built that large.

Intelligence was wrong and the Yamato and later the Musuashi emerge from their ship yards as the greatest battleships of all times. Not only were they the largest in size, they had the largest guns. They could fire over the horizon, guided by spotter planes, on targets that could not only not see them but were also beyond their range to return fire.

The Battle of Sibuyan Sea on Oct 24,1944  was the opening skirmish in what became known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf. This sea battle is considered not only the turning point of the War in the Pacific but also the end of the era of battleships. The battle saw both Yamato and the Musuashi defeated in battle. The Battle of Leyte Gulf decimated the majority of the Japanese Imperial Navy's surface fleet and saw the Musashi sunk. The Musashi was a symbol of the Japanese Naval power, it had even been visited by the Emperor. The lost of the battleship and the heavy damage to Yamato, who withdrew from the battle, shock the confidence of the IJN. Air power had proven itself over battleships.

There had been a number of previous attempts to locate the wreckage but none had been successful. One group, in 2008, had gone so far as promised to raise the wreck, restore her as a floating museum and donate it to the Philippine people. People started to buy up land around the proposed site of the museum.  The Local government spent tens of thousands of dollars on a consulting project on how best expand their small airport to accept larger commercial jets and the Philippine Senate even held hearing on environmental issues. The plan came to nothing as the wreck was not where the group was sure it was.

On March 1,2015 scientist aboard the MV Octopus located the wreck, a project started some eight years before. Most of the time was related to research. They are said to have search documentation of four countries to narrow down the location of the ship. Japanese and American records differ greatly as did eye witness accounts. A sketched when compared to aerial images was a major clue in the search. Once the area was narrowed down, Allen commissioned a bathymetric survey of the area. Using that information and theories of the ship's location they plotted out some search areas.

When the MV Octopus arrived at the search area, they launched an Automatic Underwater Vessel (AUV) on a series of one hour searches. The third search found the wreck at a depth of about 1,000 meters. The crew launched the MV Octopus's Octo a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that has a maximum depth of 8,843 feet. The Octo recorded the wreckage found which was later confirmed as the Musashi.

The initial announcement was made over twitter, with other social media methods shortly behind. Those following at the time were given live updates of the progress being made and images were frequently shared as more information became available. As someone who loves shipwrecks and the history behind them, this one is the crown. The real highlight was the real time broadcast which took you on a tour of the wreck.  After 70 years, this might warship is once again in the limelight.

The following is a summary of the Musuashi.

Type: Yamato-class Battleship

Commissioned: August 5, 1942

Sunk: October 24, 1944

Beam: 121 ft

Length: 862 ft

Displacement: 63,000 Tons

Draft: 32 ft

Speed: 28 knots


9x460mm guns (As known as 18 inch guns, these are the largest naval guns ever used)

6x155mm guns

12x127mm guns ( 5 inch anti-aircraft guns with secondary anti-submarine capability. )

35x3x25mm 25x1x25mm anti-aircraft guns

4x13mm guns

Aircraft: 7

Catapult: 2

Total Crew: 2,399

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