A series of underwater volcanic eruptions among Japan’s Ogasawara Islands have revealed sunken warships dating back to the 1940s.
The Second World War vessels, dubbed ghost ships, lie around 1,200km south of Tokyo close to the island of Iwo Jima, a speck of volcanic rock in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.
While their existence has long been known about, the ships have been submerged below the sea for more than three decades
The vessels were sunk during the Battle of Iwo Jima, a brutal conflict described as one of the bloodiest in US Marine Corps history.
The battle came to define the Japanese military and its unwillingness to surrender.
The ships – transport vessels captured by the US Navy – were deliberately sunk close to the shoreline at the end of the battle in order to provide a sheltered makeshift port for American troops.
Now, with eruptions at the Fukutoku-Okanoba volcano on 13 August having formed a new island, 24 ships have been exposed again.
Images shared on social media showed the ships lying along a beach; the bleached hulls of the vessels having broken into big pieces but still largely intact.
Setsuya Nakada, of the National Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, told TV Asahi that he doubted the new island would exist for long as the new rock deposits had been observed collapsing. The demise of the island could see the sunken ships submerged once more.
He added: “Iwo Jima is the most rapidly changing volcano among the 110 active volcanoes in Japan … especially at this time of year, Nishinoshima, Fukutoku Okanoba, and Iwo Jima are all active.”
At the end of the Second World War, Iwo Jima was blasted almost flat in six weeks of intense fighting in February and March 1945.
When the battle was over, 7,000 Allied soldiers were dead and just 200 of the 21,800 Japanese troops defending the island had been taken alive.