Deepwater Archaeology off Tobishima Island of Northern Japan

Dublin Core


Deepwater Archaeology off Tobishima Island of Northern Japan


Session 3
History and Current Trends of Underwater Archaeology around East Asia


Tobishima island on the Japan sea, belonging to Yamagata prefecture, lies about 40 kilometres to the northwest of mainland Japan. Although the island itself is relatively small, it has been on seaborne trading routes since ancient times. Trawl fishermen occasionally find earthenware pots of the 8th century by accident around the seabed. From the late 17th to the 19th centuries Tobishima island was an important islet of call for Kitamaebune, which were wooden cargo ships trading along the northern coast of Japan. According to local legends, the southeastern waters just in front of the main port is a kind of ships’ graveyard hallowed by sacred memories. Contrariwise, no reliable historical record on maritime disasters or shipwrecks exists. In February 2011 Tokyo University of Marine Science & Technology (TUMSAT) and the Asian Research Institute of Underwater Archaeology (ARIUA) conducted the preliminary submerged survey around these waters, utilising a multibeam sonar system and a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The research team succeeded in recording fine-resolution bathymetries and video images of a few shipwrecks lying between 60 and 85 metres. One looks modern, but one seems to be potentially older. For the next step, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), which has been designed and developed by TUMSAT, is planned to be employed for the visual mappings. The AUV is able to hover for observation by approaching very close to specified objects, and is equipped with high definition cameras.

Two-dimensional and three-dimensional photo mosaics will be obtained, while accurate bathymetry data shall be recorded using sonar and an optical ranging system mounted on the vehicle in order to creat fully-covered and detailed site plans.


Hayato Kondo
Akifumi Iwabuchi


November 2011



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