Explorers who found wreck of world's biggest battleship get National Museum nod

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2017 10:01 PM | Updated as of Dec 02 2017 05:31 AM

The R/V Petrel moored in Ormoc Bay on November 30. Photo by B. Orillaneda/National Museum handout photo

MANILA (UPDATED) - The National Museum of the Philippines has given the team of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen the green light to explore Philippine waters for World War II-era shipwrecks.

The museum announced its partnership with Navigea Ltd., which owns Allen's research vessels M/Y Octopus and R/V Petrel.

"Pursuant to its legal mandate in the areas of underwater exploration, survey and archaeology, the National Museum through its director, Jeremy Barns, recently issued permits on behalf of the Philippine Government to facilitate the location and documentation of World War II-era shipwrecks in Philippine territorial waters, focusing particularly on the areas of the Surigao Strait and Ormoc Bay where key battles took place in October 1944, as part of the massive Allied undertaking to liberate the country from Japanese occupation," the National Museum said in a statement.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's research vessel R/V Petrel to be used in exploring Surigao Strait.

Allen's team, along with the National Museum and the Philippine Coast Guard, has begun on Nov. 21 to explore the shipwrecks of five Japanese naval vessels in the waters of the Surigao Strait using the R/V Petrel, according to the billionaire's website.

The Japanese battleships sank during the Battle of Surigao Strait in 1944, the last time in history war vessels faced off.

The R/V Petrel is capable of exploring up to 6,000 meters deep and is equipped with the "latest side-scan sonar technology, underwater camera equipment, and extensive suite of computers and monitors."

"The R/V Petrel is the first vessel to successfully reach these ships with its (remotely operated underwater vehicle) and send back images to the surface," a post on Allen's website read.

Expedition leader Robert Kraft with National Museum underwater archaeologists Ligaya Lacsina and Bobby Orillaneda, and technician Marlon Texon, with local project consultant and technical diver Jake Miranda aboard the R/V Petrel. Photo courtesy of R/V Petrel/National Museum handout.

The U.S. billionaire's team recently found the wreck of USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea at the depth of 5,500. Meanwhile, it located the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere in the Mediterranean Sea in March, according to Allen's website.

The team also retrieved and returned the bell of HMS Hood to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom.

In 2015, it also discovered the wreckage of World War II-era Japanese battleship Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea off Romblon.

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The M/Y Octopus located the Musashi 1 kilometer under the Sibuyan Sea. The battleship's 2,399 crew members perished after U.S. forces attacked the ship with torpedoes and bombs during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The Musashi was commissioned in 1942, and was then the largest battleship in naval history. 

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It was armor plated, measured 263 meters in length, and weighed 73,000 tons when fully loaded. Its sister ship, the Yamato, was sunk almost six months after the Musashi on its way to Okinawa.