Paul Allen’s Quest for Sunken Warships

On Nov. 9-10, Christie’s New York will auction off the art collection of Paul Allen, the late Microsoft co-founder. With more than 150 items, including paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Seurat, the sale is expected to fetch some $1 billion. Allen’s interest in art was well known, but less attention has been paid to another of his passions: tracking down and documenting World War II ships sunk in action.

Through his umbrella company Vulcan, Allen funded the discovery and exploration of more than 20 warships, including the American aircraft carriers Lexington and Hornet, the cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Japanese battleship Musashi. “Paul Allen single-handedly, privately, set out to find every significant U.S. World War II warship that fought in a major battle or had a significant story to it,” said explorer David Mearns, whose company Blue Water Recoveries worked with Vulcan for more than five years.