Yamato 2199 Prehistory: Underground Giants

As we know from numerous interviews and the series itself, an important facet of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is the attention given to its scientific foundations. From the very beginning, the mission of the writing staff was to find a real-world justification for as many elements as possible. That effort required investigation into a number of disciplines, not the least of which was an inquiry into what it would actually take to build and launch a massive space battleship‚ which brings us to Maeda Construction Co., Ltd.

Maeda is a real company with offices around the globe and a record of world-class, large-scale construction projects that are described in the English section of its website. Such achievements require no small amount of imagination, and the company fully embraces that factor in its Fantasy Marketing Department. This division, founded in 2003, makes fantasy its business by providing a unique service to the anime, manga, and game communities: puzzling out the real-world foundation for fantastic concepts.

The purpose of this activity is outreach, to introduce the disciplines of engineering and construction to those who may not have found a reason to explore it on their own. For example, you may not be terribly interested in what it takes to design and erect the framework of an office building, but wouldn’t you like to know what was required to build the hangar for Mazinger Z, the launch viaducts for Galaxy Express 999, or the Earth Federation base in Jabrow, South America (from Mobile Suit Gundam)? Maeda’s Fantasy Department has worked out the details for all that and more, with awards to show for it. (Not to mention the books shown above, published by the Gento Company.)

Now that you know this, it seems inevitable that they would one day turn their attention toward Space Battleship Yamato. The results, which were published online as a four-part serial in the fall of 2012, added up to a previously-unimagined prologue to the Quest for Iscandar, the adventure before the adventure. The first two parts are presented here with the other two to follow.

All content was created by Meada Construction Co. Ltd. and the Yamato 2199 Production Committee.
Translation by Tim Eldred.

1: SOS Earth!! Revive Space Battleship Yamato Construction Chapter

See the original edition of this content here (posted October 25, 2012).

It is the year 2199. The human race stands on the edge of extinction. The mysterious interstellar nation Gamilas has invaded from outer space, attacking indiscriminately with planet bombs. Humans build underground cities and continue to resist. Therefore, the mission of construction companies around the world has changed completely after the Gamilas attack. Research and design is the lifeline of a construction company, but the building of underground cities is insufficient in the fierce race against planet bombs.

Engineers are pushed to exhaustion by the construction demands with no hope of respite, and their will is broken many times over. However, losing the competition against the planet bomb means the end of the human race. The world’s construction engineers continue digging the largest tunnels in human history, under as much pressure as if they themselves hold up the thick layers of Earth overhead.

Under such circumstances, the human race decides to secretly build an interstellar spacecraft: Space Battleship Yamato. Rumor has it that alien technology was input into the ship. In order to deceive the surveillance network of Gamilas, its construction takes place in a former seabed just beneath Earth’s surface, disguised as the Battleship Yamato from the 20th century.

The future of humanity depends on this single hope, and it cannot be allowed to fail. Moreover, in order to build a battleship near the surface, every construction engineer in the world recognizes the difficulty posed by creating an open space with access only from an underground city.

The United Nations Space Command secretly ordered a Japanese construction company to “start preparatory work for construction” of the interstellar spacecraft. That company is Maeda Construction Co., Ltd. This long-established company was founded in the 20th century when the original Yamato was built. Maeda, which continued operations into the 22nd century, was engaged in administration for the establishment and expansion of underground cities beneath Japan and Southeast Asia.

Despite extreme limitations, they did not build underground cities as mere life-support mechanisms; well-arranged artificial farms, water, and sewage systems created good scenery, and improvements such as climate adjustment for four seasons lead to a high degree of resident satisfaction. Therefore, they are continually engaged in the inspection of their underground cities. Furthermore, since the beginning of the 21st century, the company realized the study of imaginative techniques for structures that continually improved the problem-solving ability of business, and shared them with society. In that regard, it became one of the most popular companies.

In short order, the UN Space Command delivered recorded media to this company containing a “top secret” mark. The file was opened in an internal staff meeting that was filled with tension despite the simple, anticlimactic lines of text.

Project Name

Preparatory work for the construction and launch of Space Battleship Yamato

Design and Construction Conditions

(1) Secure a large space for the building of Yamato disguised as a sunken battleship with its stern and underside exposed to the underground city.

1} In order that the construction cannot be detected from above by Gamilas, all work must be performed from the underground city side.

(2) Take all possible measures for the launch of Yamato

1} In order that Yamato can smoothly push away the ground covering the upper hull, grasp the properties of the rock and soil. Carry out replacement or improvement work if necessary.

2} Additionally, the activation of the main and auxiliary engines at startup will create a powerful driving force of propulsion. In order that it does not adversely affect the underground city, it is necessary to absorb the reaction force.

3} Because the structure of the main engine provides direct backward thrust, a device must be included to assist in raising the bow.

Although the staff were momentarily taken aback by the terseness of the text, they conversely realized that this project was the ultimate performance order. (footnote 1) Upon their first glance at the CIM data (footnote 2) that showed the project at its time of completion, the members of Maeda Construction’s civil engineering business headquarters and design/technical department were convinced of the project’s difficulty.

Maeda’s civil engineering department drafts structural designs and construction plans, and is responsible for the day-to-day technical development of its members, so its reactive ability and practical skills are continually tested.

The two who were chosen from their ranks to take charge of this work were named Hayashi and Yamauchi. Before the Gamilas attack, this department was involved in the building of the world’s largest cable-suspension bridge in Hong Kong and the subway in Taiwan. As these two transcribed the explanation of their boss, Mr. Okawa, they began the early identification of priority issues.

At right: The Maeda Construction staff in charge of secret construction: Hiroshi Takashi Yamauchi (left) and Akira Miki Hayashi (right)

Hayashi thought about the time allowed for completion and how much was needed for construction. Even now, it was difficult to secure machinery and skilled workers, so the time needed for construction inevitably tended to extend. Yamauchi worried about the soil properties of the construction site. The quality of the soil was still in the “pre-Gamilas attack” database, and there was a possibility that the soil and rock targeted for excavation might have been altered by the influence of planet bombs. He prayed that it retained suitable qualities for the building of a large-scale underground space.

However, when confronting the biggest challenge of the project, they both gave the exact same answer: how to balance the export of shear [excavated soil] and the import of materials for the building of Yamato. In the past, the removal of large amounts of sediment for the building of underground cities had been a constant challenge. This time, there was the added factor of carrying in large-sized components for Yamato‘s construction.

No matter how fast the digging went, unless the sediment was eliminated from the face (footnote 3), digging could not continue. The tunnel from the underground city to Yamato‘s construction space would need very large sections in order to export shear and import components, but since Earth had to observe an extreme energy shortage after the Gamilas attack, it was realistically necessary to keep digging to a minimum.

What was the best solution? The two people who thought about this were not aware that they themselves were beginning to create the precious time for Space Battleship Yamato to sail 168,000 light years.


1: Performance order

Rather than specification of a structure, this is a method to state the quality of performance needed to satisfy a specific goal. The terseness of the text indicated a high degree of flexibility in the performance, which tests the problem-solving skills of the contractor (Maeda). This is expressed as “ultimate performance order.”

2: CIM

To take advantage of ICT technology in the manufacturing industry, as well as production information and sales & development, many used this acronym for “Computer Integrated Manufacturing” as a method to manage and share internal information. In the construction industry, it is the same as BIM (Building Information Modeling): practical techniques in the overall life cycle of design, building, and maintenance of civil engineering works using 3D data, which is defined as Construction Information Modeling.

3: Face

The advanced point in tunnel construction, the surface surrounded by excavation.

2: Moving Masses of Earth

See the original edition of this content here (posted October 25, 2012).

The construction site presented by the UN Space Command was the sinking point of the Imperial Japanese Navy Battleship Yamato, 200km southeast of Kyushu.

This was formerly a shallow sea, and data on the nature of the soil indicated ten meters of soft sediment (mud) in an “uncompacted sedimentation layer.” Below this was found “an extent of andesite-like rock.”

In normal tunnel excavation, rock and soil is understood either by “direct method” through visual means or “indirect method” through technical means such as seismic exploration. Fortunately, the results showed that the rock was stable enough to support construction (footnote 4), but it was mutually agreed that after work began, careful consideration must be given to the consequences of heat and blast effects given off by Gamilas bombs.

For example, when deep layers of ground are subjected to high pressure, the influence of high temperature in a short explosion causes a conversion to what it is called metamorphic rock. The possibility existed that the heat and pressure created by a planet bomb could have made the andesite brittle. When digging through a soft geological feature, a technique is needed to improve the ground around the excavation area. Although a mound can be hardened, similar to applying water in a sandbox (footnote 5), it would not work here. Studying a method for improvement would be necessary.

In any case, since stable rock is easy to excavate, it could be performed with drilling machines rather than blasting it with explosive charges. It was also important to use a support pattern (footnote 6) to prevent tunnel collapse, and so after study it was decided that a drilling method of tunnel excavation was sufficient. However, the biggest challenge to be solved in this project was establishing an effective conveyance method to remove the shear. A plan was needed to balance the export of shear with the import of material for building Yamato.

When CIM data was checked for the completed structure, the open space necessary to build Yamato was estimated with a 1-2 ratio of height to length. To achieve that height, the theory was to dig from top to bottom. The first tunnel to be dug (Tunnel 1) would lead to Yamato‘s stern, directly under the wave-engine nozzle. How large would its cross-section have to be?

It was Yamauchi who broke the silence.

“How about we make another tunnel to remove the shear?”

He began a rough sketch. The proposal was to dig a second tunnel concurrent with Tunnel 1 corresponding to the lowermost level, and this was called Tunnel 2. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 at right: diagram of Tunnel 1, Vertical shaft 1, and Tunnel 2 (arrows indicate digging direction)

Furthermore, Yamauchi drew a vertical shaft from the position behind Yamato where Tunnel 1 joined the construction space down to Tunnel 2 to connect them. As a result, materials for drilling the tunnel and building Yamato could be carried in through Tunnel 1, and shear could be exported down the shaft and through Tunnel 2. Taking advantage of both would make underground movement as efficient as possible by turning it into one-way traffic.

“This way may be good,” Hayashi agreed.

Based on this idea, these two summarized the construction procedure. The first step was to start digging Tunnel 1 from an underground city. After reaching IJN Battleship Yamato‘s interior, foundation improvement would be carried out on the “uncompacted sedimentary layers” on Yamato‘s flanks. This action would be required to prevent a collapse of the soft ground surrounding Yamato‘s hull due to displacement of the large-scale excavation that would begin afterward. [Figure 2]

Figure 2 at left: Location map for foundation improvement (the shaded portion indicates the area to be improved).

The digging of Tunnel 2 would begin a little later, taking advantage of geological conditions encountered in Tunnel 1. The digging of the vertical shaft would be completed by the time improvement of Yamato‘s flank areas was finished. Then excavation of the full open space could commence.

It was decided that the ceiling portion of the open space would be a dynamically-stable dome shape. A rock bolt (footnote 7) like those used in tunnel excavation would be used to provide stability through natural ground unification.

“How early could that be done?” Hayashi muttered. With the severe time limitation for this project, the first thought was about the mass influx of technicians, workers, and machinery. An upper limit existed, and it would make for various restrictions. The size of the machine that could excavate the two tunnels and the shaft was fixed. It would affect the size and speed of conveyor machines. That would determine the amount of sediment that could be transported per hour of drilling. Rather than round-trip conveyance by dump truck, continuous conveyance was preferred, via conveyor belts or a pipeline.

Furthermore, it would also affect ventilation. The quantity of fresh air would have to increase in proportion to the number of people and construction machinery that entered the site. In the year 2199, however, the misfortune of the war against Gamilas didn’t allow for it, so the solution was for engineers and workers to wear space suits.

When dealing with the flow of a problem, engineers of all eras require an attitude to solve it by pursuing its essence. In the case of this project, it meant minimizing the quantity of soil excavated.

“What is the minimum space required for building Yamato?”

Hayashi and Yamauchi thoroughly studied the UN Space Forces CIM data once again. In the completed structure from bow to stern, the lower part of the ship took up the most space. However‚¶

“It may not be necessary to excavate for the front half of Yamato.”

If this were permitted, it would dramatically decrease the amount of soil to be excavated. However, if the front half of the ship was restrained in the ground, would it satisfy the demand of the UN Space Force for “Yamato to dynamically push aside the soil surrounding the upper hull and launch smoothly”?

Needless to say, Maeda Construction was given very little information about the construction process of Yamato itself. However, by exposing only the stern and the third bridge in the underground space at the time of completion, the two men arrived at a solution that could reliably meet the performance demands of the UN Space Forces.

Two people decided it. Their findings were reported to the UN Space Forces in detail. Thereby, they influenced the appearance of Yamato‘s construction method, and it was evident that the effect of their proposal was akin to a warp. Hayashi and Yamauchi would soon begin a more detailed examination into the basis of their plan. By this time, word of the UN Space Force’s critical situation in space reached the deep underground office of Maeda Construction Co. and whispers were heard in many places.


4: Rock which is stable enough

Blasting with charges is unnecessary for excavation, and machine digging is possible. (In a road tunnel with a ground classification from CII to DI, the unconfined compressive strength is 10-30N/mm2, or 10-30 Newton per square millimeter. A Newton is defined as measure of force per unit area.)

5: Similar to applying water in a sandbox

This is a metaphor. If water is added to a mound of soil, contact with its surface tension creates frictional resistance in the soil particles so that tunnel digging becomes possible with stable results. But if the gap between particles is filled with more than the appropriate amount of water (saturation), the surface tension collapses. On the other hand, injecting soil with a chemical solution during construction prevents water saturation.

6: Support Pattern

A structure that is configured to support a foundation after tunnel digging (a combination of steel, sprayed concrete, and a rock bolt). The drilling pattern and support patterns change in accordance with properties of the ground.

7: Rock Bolt

A kind of support used in civil engineering. To prevent a collapse in a tunnel or a high wall, a long bolt is driven into the ground to fix it in place. The bolt is inserted into a puncture and solidified with cement milk. It is often used to support a radial construction such as a tunnel or dome-shaped space.

Continue to Underground Giants Part 2

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