Since the sinking of the first Japanese warship by the Australian Navy in World War Two, it has been over 80 years.
It was on secret mission, laying mines near Darwin. The I-124 suffered severe damage due to the dozens depth charges that were detonated off by HMAS Deloraine.
All 80 crew members died in the dramatic battle on January 20, 1942, just one month before the Japanese bombing of Darwin, and the wreck has lain on the sea bed ever since.
Exploring the site as a member of the public is impossible because of its protected status and shared heritage between Australia and Japan — until now that is.
This is because YouTube now allows people to “dive” down to get an even closer view of the submarine from World War Two.
All they need is a VR headset, smartphone or tablet and I-124’s remains can be explored in extraordinary detail thanks to maritime archaeologists.
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Explore: New virtual reality experience offers unparalleled access to I-124 the Japanese World War Two submarine (pictured), which was submerged off Australia’s east coast on January 20, 1942.
You can use YouTube to “dive” down to see the wreck from 40 miles offshore of Darwin Harbour
It was discovered that the I-124 submarine’s wreck was located (pictured), using modern remote sensing technology in October 2021.
The submarine was sinking on January 20 1942. This happened just one month prior to the Japanese bombardment of Darwin. Since then, the wreck lies on the seabed.
The Northern Territory Government Heritage Branch began a project in anticipation of the 80th Anniversary. It partnered with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, (AIMS), to map the wreck using the latest remote sensing technology. This was completed in October 2021.
Flinders University’s maritime archaeologist, Dr John McCarthy, was then given the task of creating a virtual experience that would allow users to dive at this important wreck.
Dr. McCarthy said that he used historical ship plans, photographs and data to create a virtual diving experience. The video guides the viewer through data collection and takes them down into the depths, so they can see the wreck from the inside.
The archaeological survey showed that the wreck remains in good shape, with signs of decay to its outer hull. Further investigation is required.
“Our goal was to make a virtual experience that is realistic and accurate, with a digital reconstruction of the submarine. This was due to the historic significance of both the wrecks in Australia and Japan.
It can be located 40 miles (65km), off Darwin Harbour.
This site is a significant symbol of the shared heritage between Australia & Japan. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, attends a Darwin memorial service for Japanese soldiers that died in 2018.
Dr McCarthy explained that advances in virtual technology have made it possible to see wrecks and other submerged areas previously unknown to the general public.
The I-124 was designed by Kawasaki Corporation, Kobe Japan. It launched on December 12, 1927.
Her armament included twelve torpedoes and one naval gun, as well as 42 naval mines.
I-124 entered military service in the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937. It was then used to patrol three times during World War Two.
In December 1941, the first submarine laid mines in Manilla Bay (Philippines)
Another was followed, before I-124 was lost during her third patrol off Darwin’s coast in northern Australia.
After a failure to attack a US oil tanker, a sister submarine attacked it in the same area. The Australian navy sent three corvettes from Darwin to Bathurst Island.
HMAS Deloraine was first. I-124 tore at the warship with a torpedo. This prompted the Australian navy’s retaliation by detonating many depth charges during a sustained attack.
I-124 suffered irreparable damages and was eventually sunk to the seabed in January 1942.
In the Battle of Waterloo, all 80 crewmen were killed.
Flinders University maritime archaeologist Dr John McCarthy was asked to make a virtual diving experience in order to demonstrate how the data can be used to monitor and understand this wreck, which is one of Australia’s most significant.
Dr. McCarthy said, “We created a virtual experience for diving. The video guides the viewer through the data collection process and then drops you into the deep to see the wreck.”
Dr McCarthy indicated that although the archaeological survey has shown that the wreck remains in good condition with no signs of damage to the outer hull, it is still worth further examination.
A wreck located off Darwin’s coast is an important site for shared heritage between Australia & Japan.
Dr McCarthy explained that advances in virtual technology have made it possible to see wrecks and other submerged environments previously unknown to the general public.
The Northern Territory Government Heritage Branch collaborated with the Australian Institute of Marine Science to map the wreck. (pictured, Solander)
I-124 suffered irreparable damage and sank to the sea bed during a battle 40 miles (65km) off the coast of Darwin in 1942
During World War Two Japan became Australia’s most ferocious adversary. 64 bombing raids against Darwin were conducted between February 1942 to November 1943. The attacks killed 252 Allied soldiers as well as civilians.
Two Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin on February 19, 1942. They killed 235 and wounded 400 people. Australia was also drawn into the conflict.
This was Australia’s most devastating single attack and resulted in the greatest death toll in its history.
Trey-nine aircraft were lost, eleven ships were sink, and numerous civil and military buildings were severely damaged.
Nearly 2000 children and women had been evacuated prior to the bombings began. However, there was panic and approximately half the remaining population of Darwin fled the scene.
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander who had led the Pearl Harbor attack ten weeks prior, planned the raids and directed them.
An aircraft from Japan crashed onto Melville Island in Darwin’s northern region. A local Aboriginal man captured the pilot. He was Australia’s first war prisoner.
For the next two decades, the attacks on northern Australia were continued with over 200 raids starting from Exmouth (West) to Townsville (Queensland).
You can watch the ‘virtual diving experience’ in English or Japanese here on YouTube.