World War II is one of the many wars where nations began to take to the sea. It was a conflict that left plenty of sunken ships in its wake, but not all of them contained stolen gold. The Kuda Maru, a Japanese freighter that was bombed by the planes of Allied Forces, sank off the coast of the Philippines and has been fascinating fans of precious metals for nearly three-quarters of a decade. This fascination occurred mostly due to the belief of yellow metal present, but it has not been determined whether it was in the form of coins or something else. In fact, recent British divers have no way to know whether or not they are at the correct shipwreck due to the amount of damage, corrosion and silt that has affected the ship.
One thing that keeps divers going, other than a sense of historical duty in documenting a Japanese shipwreck with so much legend surrounding it, is the knowledge that gold is one of the few materials that actually holds its own in marine conditions for an extremely long time. In the case of the Kuda Maru, there is a superstition that the Japanese sailors who went down with the vessel during the war continue to guard it - as ghosts. While not everyone believes this, the fact remains that during an expedition to the ship believed to be the Kuda Maru during the mid-1990s, locals say that three divers from the region lost their lives attempting to reach the wreckage and find the precious metals cargo on their own.
It is around 300 feet to the wreckage believed to be the Kuda Maru, so exploring it is quite difficult. A failed exploration in 2000 located no coins and left many wondering if this might not either be the correct location or the rumors were untrue about the precious cargo the ship contained. Despite HD quality video taken of the wreckage, it remains impossible to positively identify the ship as that of the WWII Japanese craft. Time eats away at ships lost at sea, but since shipwrecks from at least as far back as the Roman era are still being discovered as of 2012, it is believed that this freighter - being made of sturdier materials available during the time of its construction - could be more fully explored if only the right technology for the dive was developed.
The team who explored the suspected Kuda Maru wreckage in May of 2012 are the same British divers who stumbled across it using sonar exploration techniques back in November of 2006. The divers, consisting of Patrice Laborda, Lou Holder, Theuns van Niekerk, Scott Livingston and Damjan Perenic, could only stay down for about 45 minutes of exploration because decompression times limited them. Three hundred feet below the surface of the sea is quite a distance, and even the technology developed in 2012 and before would have difficulty helping divers stay submerged to this depth for long.
We may never know the full truth about the Kuda Maru and whether or not it contained stolen gold, but it is the sheer sense of adventure and discovery that drives undersea explorers to want to find out as much as possible. This compelling mystery is only one among hundreds of other historic shipwrecks that capture the imaginations of people from around the world.