Pak One - from ghost ship to scuba divers’ playground - an Amazing Thailand tale of mystery and intrigue
on board the HMS Sukhothai
the past few years, the Pak One, also known locally as the “Vertical
Wreck”, has been a divers’ paradise. But recently the half sunken
ship, which stood on its tail with its nose protruding sometimes as much
as 18 meters out of the water, began drifting away, creating a hazard for
other seagoing vessels. The Royal Thai Navy was called into action and
through a series of maneuvers, finally managed to tow the Vertical Wreck
to its new, hopefully permanent home. The ship’s history, including the
navy’s effort to relocate the ship, is full of mystery and intrigue.
The Pak One, once a mighty gas container ship, sank off
Trat Province on August 25, 1996. Her future now will be that of a
playground for scuba divers, and her transformation from working vessel to
artificial coral reef is filled with intrigue and mystery.
The ‘Pak One’, 61.8 meters long, 10 meters wide and
drawing 4.40 meters of water, originally belonged to a Japanese company.
Later a Thai company named PAK Line bought the ship, renamed it the M.T.
Pak One, and used her for transporting gas between Thailand and Vietnam.
HMS Sukhothai kept a lookout for other ships to keep them at a safe
On her last fateful voyage, the Pak One loaded her
cargo of LPG gas at the Esso gas depot in Sriracha, Chonburi Province and
headed for the Vietnamese port of Vang Tao. By the time she reached
Latitude 11 degrees 41.9 minutes North, Longitude 101 degrees 40.8 minutes
west, near the Bailan Point on Koh Chang in Trat Province, something
No one knows for sure why the Pak One sank 60 meters to
the bottom of the sea, but out of the 11 crewmembers on board, only two
survived. It has now been almost 7 years and there is still no sign of the
Udomdech took care of supplies and medical needs.
Experts surmise that the crew was probably stuck in the
hold of the ship and by now have been eaten by fish, and perhaps their
only remains might be their bones scattered across on the vast ocean
floor. This accident, understandably, has caused a great deal of grief for
the relatives of the missing crew.
The Pak One recently created history again, for this
massive ship, weighing thousands of tons, decided to stand on her tail and
stick her nose 4-5 meters out of the water only 96 nautical miles from
shore. This startled all who saw her, especially seafaring ships and
navy had an emergency decompression chamber on stand by in case one of the
divers suffered the bends.
This phenomenon created quite a stir, and interest,
amongst scuba divers both in Thailand and internationally. It was, indeed,
unique for a sunken ship to stand on one end. It also became a breeding
ground for many species of fish and other sea creatures.
For more than four years the Pak One, which by now was
known as the “vertical wreck”, was a major tourist attraction.
Tourists arrived from many parts of the world and chartered boats, paying
more than 20,000 baht per day to go out to the spot of the ship.
Divers who have had the chance to dive the wreck have
brought back stories of how exciting it was. They described the ship as
being equipped with two huge tanks, and the other parts of the inside to
be in very good condition. All the equipment seemed to be intact.
The ship is entangled with many pipes once used to
transfer the gas, one of which was causing major concern, as it was
discovered to have a ten-centimeter crack. Leaking gas bubbled up to the
surface of the sea.
team prepares to get underway.
As time passed the Pak One started to change, taking on
a ghostly appearance. Slowly, it began rising, jutting out more than 13
meters above sea level. Sea currents and strong winds began to move the
ship, sometimes as much as 20 nautical miles a day.
This became a major concern for seafaring ships plying
the area, for a collision could cause more than 600,000 liters of gas in
the tanks to explode.
The Royal Thai Navy felt that something had to be done.
Using their most experienced seamen and modern equipment to locate the
moving vessel, on March 3 just after midnight, Admiral Oknit Muensri led a
team of 25 divers and five navy ships, the HMS Sukhothai, HMS Udomdech,
HMS Rad, HMS Samaesan and HMS Petra, with a total of more than 300 sailors
on board, on a mission to salvage the runaway ship.
Navy brass come aboard to inspect ‘Operation Sink Pak One’.
It took 7 hours to reach the wreck. When they finally
found the Pak One, it was partially submerged in waters 60 meters deep, at
Latitude 11.64 North, Longitude 101.39.9 East, a distance of 96 nautical
miles from Laem Thian in Sattahip.
The Navy’s first job was to tow the ship to shallow
waters, and they chose a spot between Koh Samet and Koh Chang, which had a
depth of only 40 meters.
Each of the five navy vessels had a different
assignment. The HMS Sukhothai kept a lookout for other ships to keep them
at a safe distance. HMS Udomdech took care of supplies and medical needs.
The HMS Rad and the HMS Samaesan would tow the Pak One. All the equipment
needed would be on board the HMS Petra.
and demolition experts on rafts head out to the wreck to carry out the
That morning, divers loaded their dinghies with 300
meters of 6 inch cable and other equipment they would need for the task.
The ships had to remain upwind as the surface of the water for 100 meters
around the wreck was full of gas fumes and could have easily ignited.
Divers went down to a depth of 50 meters and fastened
one end of the cables to the Pak One. The other ends were then fastened to
the two navy ships assigned for towing, and once all cables were secured,
the vessels began their towing mission at a speed of 1.5 knots.
It took them more than 32 hours to tow the wreck 100
nautical miles to the designated spot where the next phase of the
operation would be carried out. The plan was to have the two towing ships
rip out the gas pipes on the Pak One so as to let out the gas in the
tanks, which would then allow the sea water to gush in and weigh down the
ship, sinking her to the seabed.
frogmen inspect the ‘Vertical Wreck’ under the sea.
But the exercise proved too strong for the cables, and
they snapped. Divers once again went down to re-fasten the cables onto the
half submerged vessel. But the cables snapped a second time. The plan was
then changed to fasten 4 cables to one of the 20-inch gas pipes to try to
break it off. This again proved to be a failure.
The next morning, the 6th
of March, Admiral Oknit inspected the site and saw the wreck still
upright, now emerging 16 meters above the surface. He then ordered
demolition experts armed with four blocks of C-4 explosives to place them
at four strategic points on the wreck. This done, at 10.33 a.m. sailors
performed a religious ceremony to pray for the spirits of the lost sailors
on the Pak One and to raise the morale of the salvage team. Admiral Oknit
pressed the switch to ignite the explosives, but by some freak incident,
the explosives did not blow. This, of course, created a lot of confusion
and consternation amongst the team of experts on board.
frogmen inspect the Pak One’s leaking gas pipes.
Divers were sent back down again to inspect the
explosives, and when all was in place again and another ceremony
performed, the admiral fired the remote control at 12.57. This time it
The explosion shook the area and released enormous
amounts of gas, which reeked throughout the entire area. The navy ships
moved away 10 nautical miles and stayed upwind so as not to cause any
sparks or risk an explosion.
Five hours after the initial detonation, divers were
sent down to inspect the results. They found that only tank number two had
exploded. To make matters worse, the escaping gas was causing a reaction
in the water, which was causing an irritation to their skin. They hastily
retreated to the surface to get medical treatment.
More than 10 hours later almost all the gas stored on
the ship had escaped. This caused the ship to rise from its height of 18
meters to almost 30 meters above the surface.
Pak One’s last sunset.
The team then tied cables to the top end and two navy
ships pulled the ship down to lay on its hull. That done, teams were sent
into the ship to look for the remains of the crewmen. None were found.
This whole operation took more than 120 hours at a cost
of 2.2 million baht, which was paid by the Thai government.
This is considered to be one of the toughest jobs that
the Royal Thai Navy has ever undertaken. A navy spokesman said that,
“The navy has never salvaged any ship more than 60 meters. Considering
our limited budget, equipment and know-how, the navy has done a
This operation received the support and cooperation
from both the public and private sector. All agreed that the Pak One can
now become a major tourist attraction for scuba divers. Thailand’s
offshore diving is very popular with both the locals and foreigners and
authorities foresee this will bring in a lot of foreign exchange.
Pak One’s final resting place is ideal because it is
only 30 nautical miles offshore between two very popular tourist islands,
Koh Samet and Koh Chang. This area comes under the jurisdiction of the
Royal Thai Navy based at Sattahip.
Rad and HMS Samaesarn towed the Pak One to the designated spot 30 nautical
miles offshore between two very popular tourist islands, Koh Samet and Koh
Local Captains of Tourism Industry ready for the ITB
The International Tourism Bourse (ITB), the largest
tourism trade fair in the world and held annually in Berlin, will see the
most concerted and united promotional group from Pattaya pushing hard for
our slice of the Tourism “pie” this week.
The “re-launch” of Pattaya has seen traditional
rivals in the tourism industry get together for this event behind the
chairman of the group, Pattaya mayor Pairat Suthithamrongsawat, and under
the aegis of the Provincial Administration Organization, the Pattaya City
and the Thai Hotels Association (THA).
president Chatchawal Supachayanont ... “I am very proud that we can go
to Berlin ... to promote Pattaya ... and inform everyone of the new
developments in our city.”
The president of the THA, who is also the general
manager of the Dusit Resort in Pattaya, Chatchawal Supachayanont said,
“I am very proud that we can go to Berlin, not to just promote Pattaya
but to also show our combined force, with the objective to change our
image, and inform everyone of the new developments in our city.” He
continued by saying, “We will produce a better perception from everyone
and a better understanding. This in turn will give better prospects for
His feelings were echoed by Panga Vathanakul, the
managing director of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort who said, “When we go
anywhere to sell our hotel, we have to sell Pattaya first. People have to
like Pattaya.” She continued by saying, “It is a good start that we
all get together, and hopefully there will also be other places we can go
which will be important to our industry.”
Vathanakul, managing director of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort said,
“When we go anywhere to sell our hotel, we have to sell Pattaya first.
People have to like Pattaya.”
According to Chatchawal, it is vitally important for
everyone in the tourism industry to attend the ITB, “Hotels and other
businesses in the tourist industry must attend this,” he said. “We
have the full encouragement and support from the city and the community.
We just can’t sit and wait - we have to go out and get it!” Very
strong and forceful words from the THA president.
However, with the THA convinced that Europe is the
major market and the two most important countries are UK and Germany, it
certainly would appear that to present a strong case at the ITB makes
enormous sense. The enormity of the good and positive impact Chatchawal
estimates could even mean an increase in local revenues of upwards of one
billion baht. And that is the slice of the pie that all the hotels and
tourist industry in Pattaya can share and enjoy if we promote ourselves
and the “new Pattaya” properly.
Panga mentioned the nine projects that were taken to
the government on behalf of Pattaya seven years ago, after the Pattaya
group listened to the negative responses they were getting from the travel
agents at the ITB all those years ago. The funds were allocated, after the
intense lobbying, and all of the projects (such as roads, waste
management, fresh water and water treatment) have now been done. “We
have taken it very seriously,” she said. “The old perspectives are no
In addition to the infrastructure improvement, Panga
referred to Beach Road which is now landscaped with tourist walkways, but
with plans in the pipeline to upgrade this area even further,
incorporating brighter street lighting, pedestrian crossings with lights
and free access footpaths in front of the shops.
She is convinced of the potential for Pattaya to be the
best value resort city in Thailand. “Look at the new brand name hotels
that are now here. This encourages competition and competition is good. We
(Pattaya) can give the best service and price.”
The end result of all this Pattaya promotion at the ITB
is one which will see an improved Pattaya for us all to live in, a Pattaya
which will see an increase in tourism and tourist dollars and we should be
thankful that there are such people as the Pattaya promotional group going
to the ITB. We owe them a debt of gratitude, which we can pay back by all
of us helping to make Pattaya the premier resort it can be.
Rotary Charity Walk already a success
Rotary Charity Walk already a success Receives large donation from local businessman Bruce Hoppe
businessman Bruce Hoppe, on behalf of the Copeland Corporation presented Alvi Sinthuvanik, president of the
Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya, with a donation of 200,000 baht to go
towards the Rotary Charity Walk, which will be held this Saturday
beginning at 4 p.m. at Pattaya City Hall. Hoppe’s donation was a great
start for the event, the end result of which will be to raise funds to
help care for children born HIV positive in Thailand and for other local
youth-help programs and projects.
The Rotary Charity Walk organized by the Rotary Club
Jomtien Pattaya doesn’t even take place until tomorrow, March 16. But it
is already a success, thanks to local businessman Bruce Hoppe, managing
director, the Copeland Corporation who on March
6 donated 200,000 baht towards the charity cause.
The goal of the Rotary Charity Walk, organized by the
Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya, is to raise funds to help care for
children born HIV positive in Thailand, currently under Royal Patronage,
and for other local youth-help programs and projects.
The charity walk is set to begin a 4 p.m. this Saturday
afternoon from Pattaya City Hall. Walkers will proceed to and along
Pattaya Beach Road, down the ‘Walking Street’ section of the Amazing
Thai Wisdom Fair, and eventually finish in South Pattaya in the heart of
There are two courses to choose from, Course A is 3.7
kilometers long and course B, for the more enthusiastic participants, is 8
kilometers in length. Organizers anticipate that over 3,000 children and
adults will take part in this spectacular event, dedicated to the needy
youngsters in our area.
Hoppe’s donation was a great start for the project,
and provides a solid base from which to begin. The charity walk is also
receiving support and cooperation from Pattaya City and the Tourism
Authority of Thailand.
Pattaya City, including the chief of Pattaya’s
traffic police, have ensured that walkers will be taken care of whilst on
the section of road still used by vehicles.
Tickets for the walk are available from the Rotary Club
of Jomtien-Pattaya, Kings Seafood on Walking Street, Pattaya Mail
offices and M.A. Language School on Soi Bua Khow near Central Pattaya
For further information on the Rotary Charity Walk, contact Khun Alvi,
mobile 01-864-5754 or e-mail [email protected]
Auction to benefit Pattaya Orphanage
Steve Davis autographed snooker cue to go on the block
Pattaya orphanage will soon be the beneficiary of a
major fund raising effort being held during the next two weeks by local
businesses Misty’s and the FLB (Freelancer Bar) who joined forces and
have received amazing and generous support from other local businesses in
the town as well as locals and visitors alike.
This week as a result of an appeal for support to their
members living abroad, via the internet at least 60 visitors from all over
the world will be flying in for the main event which is an auction to be
held at the Freelancer Bar on Sunday 17th March starting at 7 p.m. The
supporters are bringing with them a multitude of interesting articles for
sale and many more things have been donated by locals. One of our U.S.
visitors recently bought in $4000 of dermatological creams, which are
already in use at the orphanage. Anything not sold on the 17th will go to
a second auction at Misty’s on Thursday 21st March at 7 p.m.
So far the charity has already raised in excess of
100,000 baht and organisers predict they will beat their original target
of 250,000 baht.
James and Steve Davis
Recently, Barry Hearn of Matchroom International heard
about the plans and asked Steve Davis if he would donate an autographed
tournament snooker cue. Barry personally presented it to Andy James when
he was here to open the World Championship Bowling Tournament at Tops. Not
being satisfied with this, Steve Davis, who was playing snooker in Bangkok
last week, paid Misty’s a personal visit on Wednesday night and
photographs were taken to accompany the cue which is hoped will make at
least 30,000 baht at auction.
Plates of delicious food donated by Bob Palmers, Jack
Tars, Patricks Belgium Restaurant and Shenanigans will be available at 200
baht (eat all you can) and both bars are donating roast suckling pigs for
good measure. Father Brennan is sending staff from the orphanage to help
with the evening that is expected to be quite lively. All bar profits for
the evenings will go directly to the fund.
The orphanage is currently building a new wing
dedicated to the help and care of Street Kids and although well under way
it needs 500,000 baht to complete the project. This new building will give
these children the chance to find a safe refuge from the horrors that they
might otherwise encounter on the streets, giving them access to such
things as computers as well as expert counselling to help turn their lives
The ambitious project still needs more support to be
able to finish the job quickly and we are appealing to other businesses in
the area for help.
Donations of money or any saleable item can be taken to
Misty’s Bar (Pattayaland Soi 2) after 6 p.m. any day or from 12 p.m. on
the day of auction, Sunday 17th March, to FLB (seaward side of walking
street 100 metres before Tony’s Disco).
We will also collect donations and for any help please
call either Andy on 01 863 3074 or Bruce 09 938 6325.
Auction/Raffle Lots - Catalogues will be available on
One week’s stay at the Residence Suites (great king
size beds and home comforts)
Imported Champagne wines spirits
Viagra products (pens, watches, clocks)
Bar stools but not the FLB ones please
Meal vouchers with wine from Bruno’s and Captains
Ten 750 baht meal vouchers from Casa Pascal’s plus
dinner for 2 at The Sportsman Bar
And of course toys both cuddly and not so cuddly
A one-ounce silver dollar in mint condition
Genuine Jack Daniels watches
PG Tips tea bags and other culinary delicacies
One day discover Scuba Diving with Mermaid Dive Centre
Five golf lessens with top pro David Gomm
Gerry McGuiness chiropractor (3 hours of treatment)
Doll House drinks voucher and memorabilia
Plus much more
Raffle (Some great prizes)
Mystery surprises with some auction lots and family
Pattaya Mail staff hold impromptu birthday party for MD Peter
Mail staff and friends threw a surprise birthday party for managing
director Peter Malhotra, who turned the magic 5-0.
The staff at Pattaya Mail surprised Peter
Malhotra on his 50th birthday with an in-house celebration.
Mrs. Alvi Sinthuvanik, president of the Jomtien-Pattaya
Rotary Club, also stopped by to wish Peter a happy birthday and help him
cut the cake.
“Happy Birthday” and continue the good work from
everyone at the office and your friends in the community. May you have
many more birthdays to come.