Volcanic activity in Japan pushes abandoned ships out of the ocean

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Breathtaking series of photos go viral on social media, showing volcanic activity lifts sunken WWII ships from the depths of the ocean. It has all the makings of a good, spooky Halloween tale, but the ships have actually stood there, visible on the coast for quite some time. Here is what is going on.

In August, an underwater volcano called Fukutoku-Okanoba in the Ogasawara Islands, located about 800 miles south of Tokyo, Japan, erupted. Fukutoku-Okanoba eruption caused a small islet (small island) composed of pumice stone and volcanic ash to rise above the waves. A day later, the nearby Nishinoshima volcano erupted for the first time in a year. Japanese publication Asahi Shimbun dispatched a plane with reporters and experts to see what’s going on in the area and spotted the ghostly ships sitting on the coast of Iwo To (Iwo Jima) in the process:

Dilapidated hulls dot the black sands of the west coast of the island now known in Japan as Iō Tō. The island, whose former name Iwo Jima translates to Sulfur Island, was stormed by US Marines on February 19, 1945, Remarks the National Museum of World War II. The battle lasted 36 days, with 70,000 Marines and 18,000 Japanese soldiers participating. Nearly 7,000 Marines were killed and 20,000 wounded in one of the bloodiest battles the Marines have ever fought.

The boats circulate on social networks, some thinking that ships are artefacts of battle; others call them sunk battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. But the United States Air Force Kadena Air Base in Kadena, Japan offers a different explanation.

According to to the Kadena Air Force Base, ships lining the coast were said to have been scuttled in an attempt to build a jetty after WWII.

Image of the article titled Volcanic activity in Japan pushes abandoned ships out of the ocean

Photo: Kadena Air Base

History site Traces of war go a little further, describing the 24 sunken ships as being used in an unsuccessful attempt to create a breakwater to facilitate supply to the island.

You are probably wondering how the ships look relatively intact given that they have been battered by the sea for decades. As Kadena Air Base Remarks, these ships are made of concrete. Steel was scarce due to its use in the war effort. As a result, some governments have experimented with building ships primarily from concrete. Here is what a concrete tanker built for WWI looked like:

Image of the article titled Volcanic activity in Japan pushes abandoned ships out of the ocean

But these ships didn’t stay too long and like the Warfare History Network reports, a number of them were scuttled for use as breakwaters throughout WWII, including a group off Omaha Beach. Some concrete ships sank after overwhelming of hitting obstacles or failing.

These vessels are considered transport vessels and have in fact been less visible for years. This is what the beach looked like in 2005:

Image of the article titled Volcanic activity in Japan pushes abandoned ships out of the ocean

Screenshot: Google earth

However, as the Japanese media ANNnews reports, volcanic activity causes the island to heave, revealing more of the abandoned envelopes. Now some of them appear to be completely out of the ocean.

As British publication the Telegraph Remarks, there are no civilians on the island and unexploded ordnance is scattered everywhere. At that point, these ships will stay where they are.



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