Video courtesy ArchaeologyTV, 2009
The forces of nature and history brought Khubilai Khan and kamikaze together off the shores of Japan’s southern coast in the late thirteenth century. Even today in China and Japan, where Khubilai once reigned and where the battles and shipwrecks that marked his failed invasions played out, most do not have more than a cursory understanding of what really happened. Dimmed by the centuries, the details seemingly lost forever, the saga of Khubilai’s fleet has become a legend, a mythical tale of how two massive armadas, the greatest the world had ever seen, met their doom through the intervention of Japan’s ancestral gods, or a typhoon, depending on your beliefs. The legend, oft repeated in countless history books, speaks of gigantic ships, numbering in the thousands, crewed by indomitable Mongol warriors, and of casualties on a massive scale, with more than 100,000 lives lost in the final invasion attempt of 1281.
Determining the truth about these events is in the hands of historians and archaeologists who sift through the surviving archives and the broken, discarded or once-lost detritus of the past on search of answers.
Watch Jim as he talks about how his Japanese colleagues, Torao Mozai, Kenzo Hayashida and Randall Sasaki found the wrecks of many of the Khan’s ships and what it was like to join them on some investigative dives. Was the kamikaze (divine wind) really responsible for the destruction of one of the world’s largest maritime fleets?
Purchase Jim’s book Khubilai Khan’s Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada