HTMS Pangan Shipwreck – July Expedition
The gulf of Thailand holds many treasures for technical divers, some well known and documented, others still shrouded in mystery and yet to be discovered. When it comes to wreck diving in the gulf of Thailand and nearby regions, the MV Trident is the spearhead in technical diving and ocean exploration.
Based on Koh Tao Island, The MV Trident and its crew have direct access to the post world war 2 wreck infested waters of this region and Big Blue Tech was lucky enough to join a recent expedition to the infamous Thai Navy Vessel the HTMS Pangan (His Thai Majesty Service) for 3 days of technical diving.
A large military vessel, the HTMS Pangan was built in 1927. Weighing 2000 tons with a crew of 81, the doomed vessel sank at 10pm on July 19th 1961, apparentely due to a storm. It is argued that no such storm with enough power to sink a vessel of this size could have possible existed at that time of year, and other theories surfaced with time as signs of a large fire were discovered close to the wheel house. This theory was further exacerbated by the fact it was carrying old (unstable) ammunition with the mission of dumping it at sea. All the crew were rescued by a Japanese freighter the Ms Daisei.
This trip comprised of a group of technical divers from various dive schools from around Koh Tao, including Brian Wilcox and Christos Kardana who both completed their TDI Extended Range course conducted by James Thornton-Allan at Big Blue Tech. Putting their new found diving skills and knowledge to the test, the 3 day expedition would prove challenging and yet enlightening with respect to technical dive exposure within deep sea wreck environments.
Christos who is already a certified technical diver and was part of the June expedition when a sunken temple was discovered in Khao Sok National Park joined the trip as a Technical Underwater Videographer.
The MV Trident boat is not your normal livebaord-which is fitting because this is not your normal diving- and with that in mind the most important items were fully stocked; diesel, fresh water, oxygen and beer!.
With the ceremonial fireworks offered to Buddha to grace us with good seas and great diving, the typical goodbyes ensued to wives, girlfriends and friends as we started our overnight journey to the dive site which is about 50 nautical miles north-east of Koh Tao Island. The dive site is out of mobile phone range so it would be the last contact with the outside world for 3 days. There is a satellite phone on board afcurse, but its for emergency use only.
Isolated from the rest of the world, the divers on board could focus on setting up their gear, analyzing their gas, planning their dives and for some people packing there closed circuit rebreather. Making sure everything was sorted the night before meant you could wake up and just jump straight into the water…perfect
The Trident locates the dive site by means of GPS and Underwater Sonar. A diver is sent down using a shot line and anchor line to tie the vessel directly to the wreck making it easy for the divers to get on to the wreck with very little effort. Decompression is also made effortless with the decompression station; a trapeze structure suspended below the Mv Trident with 4 surface supplied oxygen regulators. This allows the divers to keep their bailout oxygen for the unlikely event they loose the wreck or get blown off the deco station if the weather was to turn.
The wreck is lying on it’s port side with many areas for penetration and exploration. Over the years of diving the wreck has been shifting and changing to the effect that the stress of the collapse has thrown objects out of the wreck and into the sand. Such objects like portholes and brass pieces have been recovered and stored for preservation leaving many intact and in place objects still to be seen. Our first dive here 3 years ago had divers exploring the wheel house which is now not possible as the structure is weak and collapsing. However there is still many areas to explore providing the diver has the training and experience to wiggle into the spaces.
Like many wrecks in this area, the corridors and doorways are smaller than expected. For many western divers this is a challenge as the ships are built in Asia for Asian men. You only need to look at a Japanese sailor and then an American sailor to see the difference. American and British vessels have typically larger spaces and doorways and are easier to get around. Thankfully this wreck has many openings and exits so if you do find yourself wedged in a room and unable to go back the way you came you just have to swim out through the deck.
The first dives of the trip were a real eye opener for many. For Brian “I don’t get Narked” Wilcox it was his first sense of narcosis and for Christos “I check everything” Kardana this was a great illustration of what happens to expensive video mounted underwater torches when you leave the caps out. Oh dear; no longer torches but expensive water holders. If you watch the video in future and wonder why some parts are dark then that’s why.
The most aggressive dive of the trip was a thirty (30) minute bottom time at sixty (60) meters one hundred ninety eight (198) feet. Below is a sample of that dive and what our decompression obligation looked like.
Descend to 60 for 3.0 (3.0) using 21/0/79
Level at 60 for 27.0 (30.0) using 21/0/79
Stop at 36 for 1 (33.0) using 21/0/79
Stop at 33 for 2 (35.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 30 for 2 (37.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 27 for 2 (39.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 24 for 2 (41.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 21 for 4 (45.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 18 for 4 (49.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 15 for 6 (55.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 12 for 9 (64.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 9 for 12 (76.0) using 36/0/64
Stop at 6 for 26 (102.0) using 100/0/0
*Simulated Profile, Do Not Use!
As the dives continued Brian was exposed to more challenges including wreck penetration and recovery skills. Brian was skeptical at first with regardS to penetrating the wreck but once inside he was impossible to get out; the true calling for a wreck diver.
During these dives Christos continued to film above and below the ocean and is in the process of putting together a video of this trip and the HTMS Pangan.
Once again it was a perfect trip with great sun, good times and narcosis induced diving, all with thanks to the MV Trident and its crew.