Diving The HTMS Sattakut Shipwreck
Underwater adventures; like diving the HTMS Sattakut shipwreck; are usually reserved solely for treasure hunting movies and TV documentaries; they aren’t something that we regular folk ever imagine experiencing.
It was mid-February and unseasonably HOT on the beaches of southern Thailand. I had been learning to dive on the island of Koh Tao for a week, and even though my body was relaxed, my mind was in turmoil over a question my instructor had asked me just after my last open water dive.
The Island Of Koh Tao
Just off the coast of the mainland city of Chumphon, lies the island of Koh Tao. Also known as turtle island; it is second in the world for scuba certifications and Thailand’s premier underwater adventure destination.
Travelers looking to take their first breath underwater and veteran divers alike, flock to this tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand.
The Beaches Of Koh Tao
Soft sandy beaches lined with horizontal palms and shirtless travelers lazing about are commonplace. The walking streets filled with restaurant bars and dive shops are bustling but somehow maintain an overall relaxed vibe.
Caution: There are crazy local motorbike riders who like to fly full throttle down the walking only streets next to the beach. They can and will take you out.
Walking Streets On Koh Tao
Despite its relaxed vibe, the island of Koh Tao holds a dark secret lying just below the salty sea surface. Remember when I said that my mind was in turmoil over a question my instructor had asked me? Well as we were sitting on the boat after my last open water dive, he cheekily mentioned that he and a few others were going to dive the Sattakut shipwreck the following morning, but that an advanced open water certification was required to do so.
That question sent me into a frenzy. You see I had come to Koh Tao to obtain my open water certification and nothing more; as diving isn’t the cheapest adventure around. Diving to the Sattakut shipwreck would mean spending more time and money than I’d intended. But, Seriously?
How in the hell do you say no to a shipwreck!?
The HTMS Sattakut
The HTMS Sattakut was a WWII era Navy troop carrier. It was used in many conflicts during the war but most famously the fierce battle of Iwo Jima. The cost to navigate the ship back to US waters after the war was too high, so the HTMS Sattakut was gifted to the Royal Thai Navy in 1947.
It remained in service until 2007 when the Thai government tried and failed to sink it off the coast of Phuket. Four years later in 2011, it was relocated off the island of Koh Tao and successfully sunk. It is now known as the Sattakut shipwreck and is a very popular spot for the many dive schools on the island.
So after making the conscious decision to double my time and money on Koh Tao; it was time to jump in the water and explore my very first shipwreck.
Let’s Do This Thing
I was joined by my dive partner James (center) and dive master in training Bruno (left), as well as our instructor Lucas (floating creepily behind me).
4 Man Wreckage Crew
The Sattakut Shipwreck
The Sattakut shipwreck lies about 30 meters south of the popular Hin Pee Wee dive site. The vessel stretches 48 meters from bow to stern with a height of 7 meters. Due to occasional high currents; there is a chain strapped across the deck with two massive cement blocks to keep it upright.
Dive Site Map Courtesy Of Renee Bradshaw
As we descended further into the darkness, a large blurry object slowly came into view. We were warned before the dive that at first it may seem like our mind is playing tricks on us. They were right.
As we approached the bow of the ship, we could start to make out plaques containing the history of the boat and the massive cannon looming overhead.
Approaching The Bow
As we made our way around the front cannon and down through the hull of the ship I got a very eerie feeling. We were hovering just above where I can only imagine troops used to stand nervously waiting to start a full out assault on the beaches in the South Pacific during the war.
Lucas Showing Off
Most of them young men and I’m sure a few were my age at the time they were facing terrifying odds. Situations like this are one of the main reasons I travel. I have always loved history and to be able to experience these places first hand is for me as close as it gets to total fulfillment.
Curious Grouper Fish
Drifting up past the bridge and some curious Grouper fish, then on to the stern of the Sattakut shipwreck; we suddenly became unintentional trespassers.
Pardon Me Sir
We found this little guy living in the barrel of the rear cannon. He kept jumping out at us trying to warn us that we were on his property. Deciding not to press our luck with this vicious monster; we made our way to the lower deck and over the edge of the ship.
We descended along the port side all the way down to our training depth of 30 meters. Part of the Sattakut shipwreck dive was also the deep dive part of our advanced open water course.
Once on the sea floor, we practiced some underwater skills, and Lucas surprised us with a can of coke to show that the color red is completely filtered out at those depths. Unfortunately, my GoPro quit working, so no fun pictures 🙁
The Sea Floor
I did, however, get a photo of a Moray eel that I stocked for about ten minutes as it twitched back and forth along the seafloor.
Once we’d used up all of our time at 30 meters, we slowly ascended to the ship for one last pass over.
We spent a total of forty minutes diving the Sattakut shipwreck and surprisingly the time didn’t fly by. Usually, when you’re having fun, you can’t ever seem to buy enough time. Something about being underwater makes things go much slower.
I’m definitely not complaining.
Have You Dived The Sattakut Shipwreck?
Would you want to?