Deep-sea explorers have found two Japanese aircraft carriers that were sunk in battle in World War Two.

The carriers were among seven ships that went down in the Battle of Midway, a major air and sea battle fought between the US and Japan in 1942.

One ship, the Kaga, was discovered last week, while wreckage from another carrier, Akagi, was found on Sunday.

Until now only one other ship sunk in this battle had ever been found – the American vessel USS Yorktown, in 1998.

This month’s discoveries came after weeks of searching by crew members based on the research vessel Petrel. The vessel is owned by Vulcan Inc, a company created by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The crew deployed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) fitted with sonar, which helped to pinpoint the locations of the Kaga and Akagi.

The Petrel also worked with the US Navy, as according to US law it is otherwise illegal to disturb underwater war graves – that is, sites where the wrecks of US military ships lie.

Both ships were found lying about 18,000 feet (5,490 metres) underwater within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument – the largest marine conservation area in the world.

Midway Atoll, a small group of islands in the North Pacific, was used as a US military installation during the war.

Japan had planned to capture the islands, but the US intercepted its communications. When Japanese troops arrived at the islands on 4 June 1942, ready to strike, they found the Americans waiting to meet them.

More than 2,000 Japanese people and 300 Americans were killed in the battle that ensued. A total of seven ships were sunk – four of which were Japanese carriers.

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