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Watch The Sea Hunters online: Episode 1 Kublai Khan's Lost Fleet

Kublai Khan, the grandson of the great Genghis Khan, proclaimed himself ruler of the Mongols in 1260. Under his rule, the Mongol territory grew to the largest land Empire in history stretching from the eastern shores of China and Korea to Syria in the Middle East and Romania in Europe. But just off the coast of Korea, sat the kingdom of Japan protected from the Mongols grasp by less than 200 kilometres of storm-swept sea. In 1268, Kublai Khan sent envoys to the emperor and government of Japan demanding that the Japanese subjugate themselves to the Khans authority. The Japanese military dictatorship, the bakufu, ignored the Khans less than subtle request. Angrily, the Khan ordered his vassals in the newly conquered Korea to assemble a fleet for the invasion of Japan. In the fall of 1274, nine hundred ships carrying possibly 30,000 to 40,000 men set sail across the narrow straits between Korea and Japans Kyushu coast. Because of its proximity to the Asian mainland Kyushu is considered by many to be the birthplace of Japanese culture and the area through which mainland methods of writing, pottery making, and tea cultivation may have entered into Japan. After attacking Japanese coastal islands, the Mongol forces landed at various points along Hakata Bay. Usually a route for trade, these waters became a highway for war. Thousands of samurai and warriors rushed to resist the invaders. After a day of savage combat, with the skies darkening and the threat of a storm imminent, the warriors retreated inland and the Mongols retired to their ships. Then suddenly the skies opened and a terrific storm erupted over the Mongol fleet. Against the sudden gales and towering waves, the vessels were defenseless. By some accounts, hundreds of ships and over thirteen thousand men were lost. The surviving invaders were forced to retreat. But Kublai Khan would not be denied. Months later, in 1275, and then again in 1279, he sent further delegations to demand Japanese subservience. These delegations were received less courteously. The unfortunate envoys were beheaded. Kublai Khan now proceeded to build an even larger fleet. In early summer 1281, thousands of ships and over a hundred thousand men sailed eastward, bent on conquering Japan. The Mongol Empire was the superpower of the day and their massive invasions of Japan would not be matched in size and scope until the Normandy Invasion of 1944.The Japanese were ready. They had constructed a defensive wall around Hakata Bay - which prevented the Mongols from sweeping across the beaches and invading further inland. Weeks of savage combat ensued. By this time, the second and larger of the two fleets, had finally arrived in nearby waters and the great Mongol armada prepared to attack Takashima Island. It was now late summer, and the Japanese beseeched their gods for help. The legend tells us, that the gods heard their prayers. A terrifying typhoon struck the Takashima area, reportedly sinking 4,000 Mongol ships and bringing death to more than half their force, perhaps 100,000 men. For the second time, the gods had unleashed the kamikaze upon the enemies of Japan, effectively ending the threat of Kublai Khan conquering the island nation. Nearly seven centuries later, inspired by the ancient victory, thousands of young men would attempt to conjure up the kamikaze once more sacrificing their lives against a new and deadly enemy of Japan. The Sea Hunters led by Marine Archaeologist James Delgado, are invited to dive the waters of Kakata Bay and using a low frequency sub bottom profiler, will search for remains of the Mongol fleet. Working with the staff of the Mongol Museum on Takashimi Island, the Sea Hunters will search for Mongol ships and artifacts that have lain undisturbed on the ocean floor for over 700 years.

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