The explosive-laden wreck of a World War II torpedo boat has risen from the Pacific Ocean off the Solomon Islands, pushed above the water by a powerful earthquake, an official said Friday.
The boat was exposed when reefs rose 10 feet above sea level during a 8.1-magnitude quake that caused a devastating tsunami, killing 52 people in the western Solomons in early April, said Jay Waura of the National Disaster Management Office.
The Solomons’ main island, Guadalcanal, was the scene of fierce fighting during World War II. The coastline is littered with wrecks including the torpedo patrol boat commanded by President John F. Kennedy, PT-109, which was found in 2002 by shipwreck hunter Robert Ballard.
”My team members believe that this boat could have been one of those U.S. torpedo boats,” Waura told the New Zealand Press Association. ”We were amazed by this finding, as previously this wreckage had long been sitting under the sea and rusting in peace without anyone knowing about it.”
Only the boat’s hull with its deadly cargo of explosives remained intact, he said.
Waura said a Solomon Islands Police Force bomb disposal unit would be sent to the island to safely detonate the explosives.
Kennedy was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy when his boat was cut in two by the Japanese destroyer. Two crew were killed, but Kennedy and the vessel’s other survivors clung to the wreckage before swimming to a nearby island. The experience earned Kennedy the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
The Solomons is a chain of islands 2,385 miles northeast of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, with a mainly Melanesian population of about a half million.
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