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Pak One - from ghost ship to scuba divers’ playground - an Amazing Thailand tale of mystery and intrigue

Local Captains of Tourism Industry ready for the ITB

Rotary Charity Walk already a success

Auction to benefit Pattaya Orphanage

Pattaya Mail staff hold impromptu birthday party for MD Peter

Pak One - from ghost ship to scuba divers’ playground - an Amazing Thailand tale of mystery and intrigue

Vichan Pladplueng
on board the HMS Sukhothai

For 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.

The HMS Sukhothai kept a lookout for other ships to keep them at a safe distance.

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 happened.

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 missing crew.

HMS 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 fishermen.

The 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.

Danger! C-4 explosives!

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.

The 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.

Top 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.

Frogmen and demolition experts on rafts head out to the wreck to carry out the mission.

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.

Navy 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.

Navy 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 worked.

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.

The 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 magnificent job.”

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.

HMS 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 Chang.


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).

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 Pattaya.”

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.”

Panga 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 longer so.”

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

Local 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 the fair.

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 Road.

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.

Andy 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 around.

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 the night

One week’s stay at the Residence Suites (great king size beds and home comforts)

Imported Champagne wines spirits

Viagra products (pens, watches, clocks)

VCD/VCR players

Bar stools but not the FLB ones please

Meal vouchers with wine from Bruno’s and Captains Corner

Ten 750 baht meal vouchers from Casa Pascal’s plus dinner for 2 at The Sportsman Bar

Imported aftershaves

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 entertainment


Pattaya Mail staff hold impromptu birthday party for MD Peter

Pattaya 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.


The Rotary Club
of Jomtien-Pattaya

Skal International

Pattaya Fun City
By The Sea

www.pattayarotary.org