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US-Thailand Naval Dive Team Embarks on Historic HTMS Sukhothai Salvage Mission

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In the beguiling blue waters off the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan, an extraordinary mission has unfolded, capturing the imagination of onlookers and professionals alike. Picture this: forty-nine divers, a mix of the dauntless Thai and the intrepid US navies, embarking on an audacious 19-day mission. Their quest? To salvage the HTMS Sukhothai, a vessel that met its untimely demise beneath the waves. This high-stakes operation forms a part of the esteemed Cobra Gold joint military exercise, a testament to international collaboration and expertise.

On a day brimming with anticipation, the Navy commander-in-chief, Adm Adoong Pan-iam, set foot on the US Navy’s Ocean Valor, an offshore supply ship transformed into the mission’s command center. There wasn’t just a ripple but a wave of morale-boosting energy as Adm Adoong surveyed the scene. His presence was a beacon of appreciation for the fearless team ready to tackle the formidable depths to make this mission a success.

From the sunny shores of Hawaii, the Ocean Valor had charted a course laden with purpose, ferrying essential equipment delivered by air to Singapore, before setting its compass towards the Thai province. “We are touched and feel grateful for the assistance from the United States,” Adm Adoong declared, encapsulating the spirit of gratitude and camaraderie that this mission has inspired.

The operation’s heartbeat is its crew – 35 valiant Thai Navy divers alongside 14 equally courageous US Navy counterparts. Imagined as a ballet beneath the waves, they are divided into trios: two weaving their magic underwater, while one orchestrates from the base. The rhythm of their task is meticulous – ten minutes plunging into the abyss, 40-45 minutes exploring and working at the site where the Sukhothai silently lies, followed by a ten-minute ascent back to the surface.

Post-mission, the divers’ safety is paramount, with each team member spending an hour in a hyperbaric chamber, a cocoon ensuring their wellbeing. The first act of this underwater ballet aims to retrieve the ship’s nameplate, a symbol of its identity, to be followed by the grand task of resurrecting the ship and its courageous members. The narrative will then unfold to include the delicate process of removing hazardous materials and disarming erstwhile weapons, ensuring a safe passage for all involved.

As the mission’s calendar pages turn towards March 19, a finale awaits. The navy is poised to curate relics from the Sukhothai, artifacts that will serve as educational tools and memorials, ensuring that the vessel’s legacy sails on in the hearts and minds of those who learn of its story.

The tale of the HTMS Sukhothai is one of bravery, loss, and remembrance. On December 19, 2022, it sank into the Gulf of Thailand’s embrace. Of the 105 souls onboard, 76 were rescued, clutching onto hope and survival. Twenty-four were found at peace under the sea, while five remain whispers among the waves. This mission, therefore, is not just about salvage but about honor, remembrance, and the undying spirit of those connected to the HTMS Sukhothai.

As the divers descend into the depths, they carry with them the weight of history and the light of hope. The world watches, hearts entwined, as this tale of human endeavor and international kinship unfolds beneath the ocean’s mysterious veil. It is a story of resilience, a beacon of cooperative might, and an ode to the brave, both above and below the tide. Prachuap Khiri Khan’s waters, usually serene, are today pages of a story that will captivate and inspire generations to come.


  1. NauticalFan February 22, 2024

    This collaboration between the US and Thai navies is a powerful testament to what countries can achieve together. It goes beyond a simple military exercise; it’s about honor, remembrance, and international friendship.

    • Skeptic101 February 22, 2024

      Is it though? Or is it just a flashy display of military cooperation that diverts resources from other pressing issues? How does this project benefit the Thai or American public directly?

      • GlobalCitizen February 22, 2024

        It’s about more than immediate tangible benefits. Events like this strengthen military ties and improve the skill sets of naval divers. Plus, salvaging a sunken ship helps in understanding what went wrong, possibly saving lives in the future.

    • NauticalFan February 22, 2024

      Exactly, GlobalCitizen. It’s not just about the here and now. This is about building a legacy of cooperation and using our shared resources for the greater good. Also, honoring those who lost their lives is a crucial aspect of this mission.

  2. Historian February 22, 2024

    The salvage and preservation of the HTMS Sukhothai is a critical chapter in naval history. This mission will not only provide closure to the families but also invaluable lessons and artifacts for future generations.

    • Techie February 22, 2024

      True! And I wonder what kind of tech they’re using for this salvage operation. It must be incredibly advanced to handle such a delicate and complex task.

  3. TaxPayer February 22, 2024

    Why are we spending so much money on retrieving a sunken ship? I’m all for honoring the fallen, but there are so many living people struggling. This money could be spent on healthcare, education, or housing.

    • Diver_Dan February 22, 2024

      It’s not just about the money. These operations further our understanding of deep-sea salvage and recovery, which can be vital in future incidents. Also, training in such a challenging environment is priceless for the divers.

  4. Pacifist February 22, 2024

    While I understand the importance of this for military and historical reasons, I wish countries would collaborate like this more often on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

    • Realist February 22, 2024

      Ideally, yes, but the world is far from ideal. Military collaborations forge strong alliances. It’s a balance of power issue. And sometimes, these military missions can have humanitarian benefits as well.

  5. OceanProtector February 22, 2024

    I hope they’re taking environmental precautions. Disturbing a shipwreck can release toxins or disturb marine habitats. It’s great that they’re removing hazardous materials, but the impact on marine life should be minimized.

  6. JaneDoe February 22, 2024

    This story is incredibly moving. Thinking about the divers carrying the weight of history and the light of hope into the depths gives me chills. It’s a beautiful, poetic mission, and I’m following it closely.

    • JohnS February 23, 2024

      Agreed. It’s a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those at sea, whether military or civilian. These narratives deserve to be told and remembered.

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