The ghostly wreck of an Italian warship that was sunk by the Royal Navy during the Second World War has been found at a depth of 12,000ft in the Mediterranean.
The well-preserved remains of the Artigliere were discovered by a research team led by Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, who is a marine archaeology enthusiast.
The destroyer was sunk by the Royal Navy in October 1940 during an intense battle off the south-east coast of Sicily.
During the engagement, known as the Battle of Cape Passero, the battleship was first crippled by a British cruiser, HMS Ajax, and then sunk by torpedoes fired by HMS York.
More than 130 Italian sailors died, while 100 of the crew were rescued.
The wreck lies at the bottom of a deep trench and was located with sophisticated sonar and radar instruments.
The search for the destroyer, which had been lost for 77 years, was carried out from a research ship, the RV Petrel.
The research team sent down a remote-controlled submarine which took video and photographs of the wreck.
Mr Allen announced the discovery on Twitter. “WWII Italian destroyer Artigliere found by RV Petrel. Here’s video of her more than 3,600m below the surface in the Sicily-Malta escarpment.”
The destroyer’s heavy guns are still pointed skywards and its torpedo tubes are visible.
The discovery was “a real surprise”, said David Reams, director of marine operations at Vulcan, a foundation created by Mr Allen to support philanthropic projects and to find “smart solutions for some of the world’s biggest challenges.”
The Petrel was using new sonar equipment when it detected a mysterious shadow on the seabed.
“We had started testing the new sonar scanner when an abnormal shape appeared,” Mr Reams told La Repubblica, an Italian daily.
“It didn’t look like it had been submerged for 77 years. It was resting on the bottom, perfectly recognisable. Even the colour of the ship’s letters were intact.”
The engagement in 1940 happened after a Royal Navy convoy had completed a mission to take supplies to Malta.
The British ships were spotted by the Italian navy, which dispatched battleships and destroyers from the Sicilian port of Augusta.
The Artigliere was the flagship of the Italian force, its motto “Sempre e ovunque” – Always and Everywhere.
In 2015, a team led by Mr Allen located the wreck of a huge Japanese battleship that sank during the Second World War.
The 73,000 ton Musashi was found at a depth of around 3,280 feet in the sea off the Philippines.
The battleship was sunk by Allied forces during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944.