Thailand’s Fabulous Technical Wreck Dives

Posted on 03/11/09 No Comments

A good overview of the development of Thailand’s dive industry — particularly technical diving — was recently published by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. A bit basic for experienced tech divers, the article nonetheless offers interesting background on the Gulf of Thailand’s many wrecks accessible to technical divers.

Two of the most popular new activities in Thailand are wreck diving, mostly in the Gulf of Thailand, and cave diving, mostly along the Andaman Sea coastline. The Gulf of Thailand falls well short of being an Asian Bermuda Triangle, but is rich in sunken wrecks resulting from misadventures in trading, piracy and war. Many stories have been lost in the mists of time but, according to one list, there are at least 179 sunken Japanese ships – or marus, as some divers prefer to call them.

Some of the biggest recent discoveries date from the Second World War. In mid-2005, a group of technical divers from Koh Tao came across a US submarine that had been sunk in 72 metres of water by the IJN Hatsutaka, a Japanese minelayer that recorded an anti-submarine action with depth charges at the time….

The wreck turned out to be the remains of USS Lagarto, SS 371, sitting virtually upright on the seabed. The sub was completed in May of 1944 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan – a city today twinned with Kamogawa in Japan. The Lagarto was lost on 3 May 1945, taking down 86 crew. Its exact location remains a secret known to very few. A year after its discovery, however, US Navy divers from the Salvor (ARS-520) were able to confirm that the wreck was indeed the Lagarto. Relatives have been informed, and a memorial plaque and flag erected on the wreck….

The Gulf of Thailand has many pottery wrecks from sunken merchant vessels, some of which date as far back as 700 years. Siam, as Thailand used to be known, had a more inland capital before Bangkok at Ayutthaya that was readily accessible by boat up the broad and majestic Chao Phraya River.

It was therefore a major trading centre in its day, attracting merchants and adventurers not just from Asia but as far afield as Europe. The waterborne traffic ebbed both ways in ancient Siam, and captains often placed pottery items in the bowels of their vessels for ballast and stability. They could never have envisaged the value such items would acquire in the years to come.

The full article is available here.

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