Koh Tao’s latest shipwreck the HTMS Sattakut (LCI [Landing Craft Infantry] – 742) has quickly become one of our favourite and most visited divesites here at Simple Life Divers.
At 48 meters in length, this former US World War II Navy vessel (formerly known as the USS LCI(M)-739) was commissioned into the Royal Thai Navy in 1947 where it served until it was decommissioned in 2007.
Previously, as a US Navy ship it most famously participated in The Battle of Iwo Jima – one of the fiercest and most strategic battles between the USA and Japan during World War II.
On the 18th June 2011 after cleaning and stripping the vessel of all toxins and hazardous materials, the Thai Department of Marine and Coastal Resources purpose-sank the ship just off the coast of Koh Tao as a new artificial reef and divesite.
This initial sinking did not exactly go as planned, and the unpredictable nature of the weather and ocean caused the wreck to lie flat on its side in the sand – as opposed to the preferred upright position.
At the beginning of August 2011, a salvage team successfully up-righted and moved the wreck to its current resting place – about 30 meters south of popular divesite Hin Pee Wee.
Just minutes by boat from Sairee Beach and the Simple Life Dive shop, the new position is excellent – with both the HTMS Sattakut and Hin Pee Wee benefiting from the chosen location.
An artificial reef is classified as any human-made underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in its chosen area. The HTMS Sattakut has done exactly that – over the past 11 months we have watched thousands of fish take residence in and around the wreck’s structure as well as a variety of algae and invertebrates.
The pace at which these new fish first arrived was incredible – much faster than I and many others had anticipated. As time goes by these migrations will only increase – making this wreck dive-site even more diverse and interesting.
At this point in time, the Sattakut is home to large schools of Fusilier, a school of juvenile Yellowtail Barracuda, various Snapper, Wrasse, Groupers, Trevally, Rabbitfish, Moray Eels as well as small Blennies living in the small holes of the structure.
We have also witnessed a Jenkins Whipray on a number of occasions as well as the occasional Grey Reef Shark, Great Barracuda, a large Starry Pufferfish and various Flatworms (Maiazoon orsaki & Pseudobiceros gratus). I also believe I spotted a pair of Robust Ghost Pipefish at the site in late 2011, although this is unconfirmed as I didn’t have my camera with me at the time!
The wreck’s keel or base sits in the sand at a maximum depth of between 27 and 30 meters (depending which end) while the top of the mast protrudes to a depth of approximately 18 meters – making this dive most suitable for divers with the PADI Advanced Open Water equivalent or above.
With a large 76mm/50 Mk 22 DP gun at the Bow and a 40mm/60 Bofors Mk III cannon at the Stern, as well as numerous portholes and doorways to explore, the HTMS Sattakut has much to offer.
Penetration of the wreck is certainly a different experience and is only available to those who have been specially trained to dive in overhead environments – Simple Life Divers offer this in the form of the PADI Wreck Specialty course.
Over the past 11 months, the HTMS Sattakut Wreck-Dive has become a part of almost every PADI Advanced Open Water course, making it one of our most frequently visited divesites.
I am really looking forward to watching this wreck develop and monitoring the new creatures that decide to take residence in and around its structure.
Here is some History and some of the Specifications of the HTMS Sattakut (LCI-742):
30th January 1944 – Construction commenced at The Commercial Iron Works, Portland, USA
27th February 1944 – Ship Launched
6th March 1944 – Commissioned by The US Navy to participate in the World War II Asia-Pacific Theatre as the USS LCI(M)-739.
Campaigns with The US Navy:
Western Carolines Island Operation: Capture and occupation of southern Palau Islands, 6th September to 14th October 1944
Iwo Jima Operation: Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima, Japan, 19th February to 3rd March 1945 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Iwo_Jima
Okinawa Gunto Operation: Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, Japan, 26th March to 14th June 1945
Three US Battle Stars for World War II service.
1947 – Commissioned into the Royal Thai Navy as HTMS Sattakut (LCI-742)
Displacement: 246 long tons (light), 264 lt (landing), 419 lt (loaded)
Length: 158’ 5.5” (48.3m)
Beam: 23’ 3” (7.1m)
Speed: 16 knots
Propulsion: 8 General Motors Diesel Engines. 4 per shaft, 1,600 bhp (1,193 kW)