(Reuters) - Some of the first video taken of the sunken Japanese battleship Musashi, newly discovered by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's exploration team, reveals that the vessel broke apart before coming to rest on the sea floor near the Philippines in 1944, researchers said on Friday.
Footage of the wreck was shot this week by a remotely operated underwater vehicle exploring what remains of the World War Two battleship, one of the largest ever built, at the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea.
The research team, sailing aboard Allen's yacht, the M/Y Octopus, used historical records, detailed undersea topographical data and advanced technology to find and photograph the Musashi on March 2, ending a decades-long mystery about the shipwreck's exact location, according to his website.
The discovery attracted international attention because the Musashi and its sister ship, the Yamato, to this day rank as the heaviest and most heavily armed battleships ever built.
Historians had expressed interest in how much of the ship had remained intact.
The latest findings indicate that the Musashi rests in multiple pieces on the sea floor, and the size of the debris field shows it broke up during its descent, a spokeswoman for Vulcan, a company founded by Allen that is handling the expedition, said in an email.
The impact of torpedoes caused the breakup, according to the spokeswoman, Alexa Rudin.
U.S. forces sank the Musashi on Oct. 24, 1944, killing more than 1,000 Japanese, or about half the vessel's crew. The sinking occurred at the outset of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval engagements in history, pitting American and Australian forces against the Japanese.
The Musashi, named after a province in Japan, was commissioned in August 1942. It measured 863 feet (263 meters) in length and weighed nearly 73,000 tons when fully loaded with nine main guns, along with aircraft and other features.
The Yamato was sunk on April 7, 1945. Its wreckage has been photographed a number of times over the years.
Allen and his research team are mindful that the wreckage is a war grave and they have worked with the governments of Japan and the Philippines to ensure the site is treated with respect, Rudin said.
Allen, who had been searching for the Musashi for eight years, was not present on his yacht when the team aboard the vessel discovered the Musashi, according to the billionaire' s website.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham