The Momi-class destroyer Warabi (27) was laid down for the Imperial Japanese Navy some 101 years ago this month.
The proud 850-ton greyhound had a short career, lost 24 August 1927 during a night training exercise in Miho Bay off the Jizosaki Lighthouse.
The 5,200-ton Sendai-class light cruiser Jintsū sliced Wabari in two and sent her to the bottom, with a loss of 119 souls. The event, which also saw a less catastrophic collision with Warabi’s sistership Ashi and the cruiser Naka, went down in Japanese naval history as the Mihonoseki Incident (美保関事件, Mihonoseki no Jiken) and was one of the worst peacetime accidents the fleet suffered, akin to the 1923 Honda Point disaster to the U.S. Navy.
While Jintsū had to be taken to Maizuru Naval Arsenal for major repairs and would go on to be pummeled to the seafloor by three Allied cruisers at the Battle of Kolombangara, her skipper during the Wabari incident Captain Keiji Mizushiro, committed suicide after the 1927 collision before he could be sent to trial.
Now, Warabi’s shattered wreckage has been located by the Mihonoseki incident memorial association.
A search with a multibeam sonar system, which uses sound waves to study the unevenness of the seabed, spotted a massive object on the 97-meter-deep ocean floor off Kotoura, Tottori Prefecture. The site is located 33 kilometers to the northeast of the Mihonoseki Lighthouse, which stands guard at the eastern end of Shimane Peninsula.
In September last year, the association scrutinized the object through an underwater drone and identified it as a ship’s body with a length of 50 meters or so. It enlisted the assistance of other parties, such as a company that employs sounding technology and the Kyushu University Research Center for Coastal Seafloor, which had a track record in underwater surveys.
Members of the expedition team determined that the object was the Warabi’s bow section, partly based on Imperial Japanese Navy records that reported the destroyer’s hull being broken into two parts.