First look at the World War II ghostship that sank and killed all its crew members

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Virtual technology was used by historians to find out the secrets of an 80-year old sunken submarine that claimed all the crew members’ deaths.

The I-124, which was identified as an Imperial Japanese Navy Squadron, had been placing mines near Darwin as part of a plan to close the port during World War II.

It was sink by the Royal Australian Navy on 20 January 1942, killing all 80 crewmen.

The wreck is now a war grave because it lies deep beneath treacherous waters.

Flinders University’s maritime archaeologists were able to dive to the wreck with modern sonar technology, giving them the first glimpse of the submarine in over eight decades.



Japanese submarine
In 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy Squadron included the Japanese submarine I-124.

The Northern Territory Government Heritage Branch started the project in October 2021. They collaborated with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, (AIMS), to map the wreck using remote sensing technology.

The virtual reality tour was created by experts in Adelaide, South Australia.

Flinders University maritime archaeologist Dr John McCarthy was given the task of creating the Explore to show how this data can be used to monitor the site.



Japanese submarine
Flinders University marine archaeologists used modern sonar technology for mapping the submarine.

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He stated: “Drawing on our data, and historic ship plans and photographs, we’ve created a virtual dive experience in which the video takes the viewer through the data gathering process, and then takes you down into the deep, to experience the wreck firsthand.

“The archaeological survey shows that the wreck remains in good condition with some signs that it has suffered from degradation of its outer hull. This requires further investigation.

“Our aim was to create a realistic virtual experience with an accurate digital reconstruction of the submarine given the historical significance of the wreck in Australia and Japan.”