SASEBO, Japan (Apr. 25, 2018) A set of three rare Imperial Japanese Navy coal briquettes were turned over to the Sasebo City Board of Education by Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo Apr. 25, 2018. The briquettes were discovered in CFAS waters during a marine ecological survey Feb. 16, 2018.
The briquettes are more than a century old and according to the still legible markings on them they were manufactured for the Imperial Japanese Navy by the navy fuel depot at Tokuyama, Yamaguchi Prefecture. These coal briquettes were a mid-grade fuel source for early 20th century ships, making it less likely that they would have survived if they hadn’t been lost underwater. Currently only the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Museum has examples on display in Sasebo.
“It’s unusual to find them completely intact in the water, we’d figure there’d be some decomposition but they’re fine,” said Sean Suk, CFAS cultural resources manager. Suk turned over the briquettes to Sasebo City archeologist Atsushi Kawachino.
CFAS has no curatorial facilities to house artifacts like the briquette so when discovered they are offered to those who can, such as the Sasebo City Board of Education, said Suk. According to Kawachino these rare items are important to Sasebo’s heritage and they will be put on display in the city’s art museum or the citizens’ cultural hall, which is a former Imperial Japanese Navy facility built to commemorate Japan’s participation in World War I.
Their discovery was an incidental result of the first-ever environmental marine ecological survey conducted by the CFAS Environmental Division Natural Resources Program. The survey was conducted to better understand the installation’s marine resources by starting a species survey and to create habitat maps.