Brandi Mueller is a world renowned underwater photographer. She has traveled the world taking incredible photos of underwater flora and fauna. The majority of our world’s oceans remain unexplored, truly Earth’s final frontier. She made an amazing 70-year-old discovery at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean near the Marshall Islands that made international headlines and sparked outrage among many Americans. Her photography shows the haunting images of a dark and deadly past long forgotten about. Read on to find out what this incredible woman discovered deep under water where no one had dared to venture before.
1. Oceanic Enigmas
Brandi Mueller has been diving since she was 15-years-old. Her passion for diving has taken her on a journey exploring the world’s oceans and the dark mysteries they contain. Approximately 95% of the Earth’s oceans remain unexplored.
Most of our planet is covered by water, yet we still know very little about it. Strange mysterious creatures inhabit it and relics from our past litter its sea floor. From lost underwater cities to sunken treasure, the oceans have always been a source of human intrigue.
2. Inspired Beginnings
As a child, Brandi loved exploring nature and taking pictures of plants and animals with her parents’ camera. As time went on, she decided to combine her passions of diving and photography. Brandi learned how to dive during a student exchange program in New Zealand at the young age of 15.
When she went on to University she traveled to Tasmania, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica, learning about plants and ecology. After backpacking through South America she became a diving instructor. Years later, what Brandi was about to discover on the ocean floor would shock everyone.
3. Underwater Photography
Over just a few short years Brandi became one of the most published underwater photographers of her generation. Her stunning photography has been internationally praised. Apart from teaching diving she also received a captain’s license.
“I love observing behavior in the ocean, to catch a shrimp cleaning a turtle or see courtship and mating behavior. I could sit with the same fish for an entire dive (sometimes more than one dive) and be happy just observing and photographing,” Brandi has said.
4. Marshall Islands Dives
Scuba diver Brandi became the captain of a boat in the Kwajalein atoll, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. This allowed her to freely explore the vast Pacific Ocean, an endless resource to practice her underwater photography.
The Marshall Islands sit atop ancient submerged volcanoes rising from the ocean floor, making it an exquisite location for underwater photography. Many of the atolls in the area are uninhabited due to nuclear contamination from US testing during the Cold War period.
5. Aquatic Debris
Brandi’s expeditions around the islands led her to discover something interesting. In many locations, the seafloor was littered with large, metal debris. Portions of broken metal and glass protruded through the bottom of the ocean, long rusted and overtaken by the marine flora.
The more she explored, the more debris she found. Determined to discover the source or at least uncover a clue as to what had happened, she kept diving. The depth of the ocean floor made the dives difficult as you can’t remain at such depths for too long and one careless move could result in a quick death. Brandi assumed that she was headed to a shipwreck. However, she would be shocked at what she found instead.
6. Forgotten Graveyards
Brandi’s explorations eventually led her to the source of all the broken pieces of glass and metal. Deep on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, she stumbled onto a myriad of planes. Like a ghostly watery graveyard, unknown aircraft rested at the bottom of the ocean.
Forgotten by time the planes lied untouched apart for some fish that had now taken up residency within the structures. Brandi continued coming to the site, day after day. Searching for some clue as to whom they had belonged to and how so many were shot out of the air in the same location.
7. Condition of the Planes
The planes astonishingly were in immaculate condition. Apart from the rusting and sea plants such as coral and barnacles, the planes were for the most part wholly intact. That’s when Brandi realized that the planes were in too good of condition to have been shot down.
The planes were too rusted over to identify the insignia which marked their owners. One thought that crossed her mind was that perhaps the planes had belonged to a fleet of Japanese bombers who didn’t have enough fuel to make it home. Crashing into the ocean instead. But that still didn’t explain the lack of human remains…
8. Forgotten History
While the site was a resting place for the planes, it certainly wasn’t a human graveyard. Brandi kept returning to the location, determined to photograph the evidence at the bottom of the ocean. As far as she knew, she was the first diver to come across the site.
The locals didn’t seem to know anything about the site. Perhaps she had stumbled onto a major part of history that had long been forgotten.
Before Brandi knew it she had discovered over a hundred of the sunken planes. “They should have flown more, lived longer, but they were sunk in perfect condition,” Brandi told the Dailymail. She discovered the site about five miles off the coast of Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands.
Many battles occurred in the area during the Second World War between the United States and the Empire of Japan. But that didn’t explain why the planes were in such pristine condition or why the pilots were missing.
10. Finally, an Explanation?
The planes, as it turned out, were neither shot out of the sky nor did they crash land into the sea. The aircraft were leftover remnants from WWII, surplus American aircraft that were dumped into the sea after the war ended.
“For me, diving on airplanes, especially World War Two airplanes is really unique,” Brandi said in an interview with the Dailymail. “Diving on shipwrecks seems normal, you expect ships to have sunk…but not planes.” But was that the only explanation?
11. Eerie Memorial
The underwater planes stand as a ghostly memorial to a war that claimed the lives of tens of millions of people across the planet. But still, one mystery troubled Brandi. Why had the planes been abandoned?
No explanation made sense. The planes were apparently still in working condition when they were so unceremoniously sacrificed to the sea. The aircraft would have been worth millions. At least 150 planes were discovered during Brandi’s dives in the area.
12. Sunken Treasure
Exploration of the wreckage became Brandi’s most strenuous and difficult project to photograph. Brandi explained that the wreckage was exceptionally hard to photograph given the depth. The planes are located around 150 feet under the water, and the time divers are capable to stay under that far is limited.
“But seeing planes underwater is strange, planes don’t belong in the water, they belong in the sky, so it feels weird to dive on them. But amazing and special too. And because these planes didn’t sink because of the war they are special.”
13. WWII Planes
The over 150 planes sat at the bottom of the ocean for over 70 years, lost and forgotten as the decades passed. Planes found at the site included: TBF, the TBM Avenger, the Douglas SBD Dauntless (dive bomber) and the F4U Corsair.
The majority of the models had only been introduced in the early 1940s and were used heavily during the Second World War. Some of the models were also used by US forces during the Korean War, after which they were officially retired.
The planes were intentionally thrown in into the sea from Allied aircraft carriers after the defeat of the Empire of Japan. Disposing of the planes allowed the military to avoid adding them to their already surplus supply of aircraft. The maintenance and storage of the planes were simply not reasonable financially.
Many new and improved models of aircraft were already streaming into US forces. Leaving the leftover WWII planes obsolete. Some models such as the Douglas SBD Dauntless had already been replaced by faster models in the early 1940s.
But those weren’t the only things the photographer found on the ocean floor.
15. Old Habits
Additional sites where wasteful dumping of Allied or US equipment have been found in the region. Wreckage off the island paradise of Vanuatu has revealed that US military dumped bulldozers, jeeps, trucks, semi-trailers, fork lifts, tractors, clothing, corrugated iron and even Coke bottles into the sea.
The equipment, like that near the Marshall Islands, was deemed cheaper to dump in the ocean rather have it returned to the US. Many people have questioned why the majority of these items couldn’t be given to the locals instead of wasted.
16. Battle of Midway
The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, crippled the American forces in the South Pacific but failed to destroy American determination for an Allied victory against the Axis powers. Six months after the attack at Pearl Harbor, US forces retaliated against the Japanese at the Battle of Midway.
American forces inflicted devastating damage to the Japanese fleet after successfully breaking their military code. Military historian John Keegan caled the battle “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”
17. Marshall Islands during WWII
The Marshall Islands were a strategic geographic position and were the easternmost point in the Empire of Japan’s defensive ring in the early stages of WWII. The Kwajalein Atoll was home to the Japanese 6th fleet administrative center, tasked with the defense of the Marshall Islands.
US forces invaded and occupied the islands in 1944, causing irreparable damage to Japanese forces. The Mili Atoll was home to a 5,100-man Japanese garrison, due to a lack of food and other injuries, only half of the soldiers survived to the end of the war.
18. The South Pacific
The number of air and naval battles in the South Pacific have made the region an underwater graveyard. Sunken ships and planes line the ocean floors. Underwater photographer Brandi Mueller has also dived at locations where Japanese ships and planes have been discovered.
Much like the abandoned American planes the Japanese planes and ships have sat on the Pacific floor for 70 years, undisturbed, rusting and collecting coral. Unlike Brandi’s more recent discovery, human remains have been found along with supplies pilots and sailors would have had with them.
19. Sunken Ships
Underwater photographer Brandi Mueller has explored many WWII graveyards on the seafloor. Many of the items found and photographed by Brandi were in excellent condition, preserved by the deep sea for decades. The sites serve as eerie reminders of a brutal and horrific past.
Being an expert photographer and diver, Brandi Mueller has traversed the globe taking pictures that would otherwise never be seen. Her haunting photos of the seafloor relics shed light onto a dark past in human history.
20. Chuuk Lagoon
Another amazing WWII site Brandi has explored is located on the seafloor of the Chuuk Lagoon in the modern-day Federated States of Micronesia. Chuuk Lagoon was the Empire of Japan’s main naval base in the South Pacific theatre.
The base was heavily fortified against Allied positions located in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. During the war, the base was stationed by almost 28,000 Japanese sailors. The based was referred to as “the Gibraltar of the Pacific” due to its natural and man-made fortifications.
21. Amazing Findings
An incredible amount of Japanese war relics have been found at the bottom of Chuuk Lagoon. Allied forces sank twelve Japanese warships, 32 merchant ships and destroyed at least 249 aircraft during the battles that took place in and around the island.
The Japanese ships were loaded with supplies when they sank making the seafloor a veritable treasure trove for underwater divers and explorers. Brandi’s pictures of the wreckage at Chuuk Lagoon are particularly haunting. The site is known as “the million dollar wreck” due to the estimated worth of the undersea cargo.
22. Japanese WWII Planes
The most common Japanese planes found in the South Pacific wreckage are the Mitsubishi G4M, dubbed the Betty Bombers by Allied forces. In Japanese, the planes are referred to as Hamaki, or cigar, due to their shape.
The Empire of Japan produced 2,435 of these warplanes for their naval forces during the Second World War. The models were highly effective and good for long-distances but didn’t provide protection for the crew due to their structural lightness. The Betty Bomber model was retired in 1945 after the war ended.
23. After the War
Imperial Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, in a recorded broadcast by Emperor Hirohito, officially bringing the Second World War to a close. On August 28, 1945, the occupation of the Japanese home islands by the Allied forces began.
The war cost the United States around $341 billion dollars, calculated into 2015 currency the war cost over $4.5 trillion dollars. An amount equivalent of 74% of America’s GDP. A staggering amount of Allied equipment was abandoned and dumped into the ocean after the war’s end. But does being underwater for centuries mean these artifacts were now harmless?
24. War Waste
Exploration at some of the sites can be dangerous not only due to the depth of the wreckage but due to the arsenals of Japanese explosives that have sat for over seven decades at the bottom of the ocean.
The practice of dumping equipment has also been done after other wars. An estimated ten million dollars’ worth of helicopters were dumped by US forces in the South China Sea after the Vietnam War.
So what else lies deep beneath the ocean waves? If it’s up to photographer Brandi Mueller, we will soon find out.