There is something about wreck diving that captures the imagination. Whether it is ships, airplanes and even cars, an artificial reef for scuba divers, or lost as the result of an accident, wrecks are fascinating windows to the past.
For decades, old and decommissioned vessels have been scuttled and purposely sunk to create artificial reef structures. Koh Tao is home to a great wreck dive, The HTMS Sattakut. A vessel that has played her own part in world history.
From playing an important role in the Battle of Iwo Jima to being involved as a support ship during the atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll. The Royal Thai Navy took control of her in 1947 from the US Navy and was sunk by the Thai Department of Marine Coastal Resources in 2011.
Now she lies about 30 metres south of the popular dive site Hin Pin Wee, off the island of Koh Tao.
A Brief History of the HTMS Sattakut
The vessel was built for the US Navy at the Commercial Iron Works, Portland in 1944 USS LCI (M)-739 (Landing Craft Infantry) as an amphibious assault ship during the Second World War (WW2).
Her purpose was to land large numbers of infantry directly onto beaches. She saw action during the pacific theatre of WW2, participating in some of the fiercest campaigns, particular the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
A war wreck with a genuine history, her role in these operations was to land US Marines onto the beaches and provide cover fire. She was awarded 3 battle stars during her active service.
After the war USS LCI-739 was commissioned into the Royal Thai Navy and renamed HTMS Sattukut (LCI 742) remaining in service until 2007.
After the removal of all hazardous materials, the Sattakut was sunk of the west coast of Koh Tao creating an artificial reef and much needed additional dive site.
The Sattakut has taken significant pressure off some of the more popular dive sites around Koh Tao.
The Sinking of the HTMS Sattakut
On 18th June 2011 HTMS Sattakut went under during a controlled sinking. Due to poor weather conditions she didn’t sink as planned, instead resting on her side when she reached the bottom.
At the beginning of August 2011 a successful operation was launched to relocate the wreck to an upright position. Her new home was South of two of Koh Tao’s most popular dive sites White Rock and Hin Pee Wee, making it a short boat ride away from Crystal Dive.
Let’s Go Get Wrecked!
The HTMS Sattakut lies in a perfect position for scuba divers, especially those wishing to dive the wreck as part of their PADI Advanced Open Water course. The base of the ship rests at depths between 27m – 30 m, depending whether you are at the bow or stern.
The wreck has become a home to a large array of marine life including, schools of fusiliers, yellowtail barracudas, giant grouper, moray eels which pop out from nooks and crannies, snapper and nudibranch attached to the metal. Additionally, Whaleshark s have been sighted here too, cruising past in their never ending search for plankton.
The top mast of the wheelhouse protrudes up to 18m making this a wonderful deep dive site. To get the most of the dive it is a great idea to use Enriched Air Nitrox allowing you a longer dive time.
The wreck has a large 76mm/50 Mk 22 DP gun at the Bow mounted on the bow as well as a 40mm/60 Bofors Mk III cannon at the Stern, which are both in very good condition. The vessel is a great dive as it provides numerous portholes and doorways to explore, the HTMS Sattakut has much to offer and provides photography opportunities for those who like to create amazing underwater images.
Such abundance of marine life on an historical WW2 ship wreck has made HTMS Sattukut one of Koh Tao’s premier dive sites, definitely one of the most interesting and certainly one of our customers favourites, whether student divers completing the PADI Wreck Adventure dive or our certified divers enjoying fun diving on Koh Tao.
Wreck Penetration HTMS Sattakut!
While the wreck is suitable for both intermediate and experienced divers. The dive site offers an ideal training location for those wanting to expand their diving world.
Wreck specialty divers may penetrate the wreck and there are lots of entrances and exits and plenty of natural light when you are inside. The PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course offers divers the chance to enter wrecks and explore inside.
The PADI Wreck Specialty consists of 4 training dives. The course teaches divers how to plan, organise and conduct penetration dives of an underwater wreck safely.
During this course you gain practical wreck diving knowledge, including recognizing and avoiding potential hazards, and planning procedures that make wreck diving fun.
You will also learn how to map wrecks so you know where all entry points are and will learn how to use a reel and line to make sure you know how to exit the wreck safely.
A sense of History
Finally, as the wreck appears from about 18meters you get a feeling that you are diving on a piece of history. As the wreck is in great condition you can easily explore the interior and will likely see giant Starry Puffer fish, Cleaner Shrimp and Wrasses that have made the HTMS Sattukut their home.
As time goes on she is slowly becoming more overgrown by corals and algae in green and yellow colors giving an almost eerie feel to the wreck.
As you look around the various rooms it is hard not to be excited and curious about the ships history. Once inside I always imagine the US Marines who were once here getting themselves prepared for what was to come as they hit the pacific beaches.
I highly recommend the HTMS Sattakut wreck, this form of scuba diving experience is one that simply cannot be found anywhere else, as it combines diving and beautiful marine life with history that helped shape the world as we know it today!
Best Historical facts about 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 US Navy for the World War II Asia-Pacific Theatre as the USS LCI (M) -739
31st December 1944 – Reclassified Landing Craft Infantry (Gunboat) LCI (G) -739
30th April 1945 – Reclassified Landing Craft Infantry (Mortar) LCI (M) -739
During World War II, USS LCI (L)(G)(M) – 739 was assigned to the Asia-Pacific Theatre:
LCI Flotilla Fourteen – CAPT. T.W. Rimer
LCI Group Forty (Flagship) – LCDR. H. Brown
LCI Division Seventy-Nine
Participated in the following campaigns:
Western Caroline Islands Operation:
Capture & occupation of southern Palau Islands – 6th September to 14th October 1944
Iwo Jima Operation (as LCI (G) -739)
Assault & occupation of Iwo Jima – 19th February to 3rd March 1945
Kinawa Gunto Operation (as LCI (G) -739 and LCI (M) -739)
Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto – 26th March to 14th June 1945
10th March 1947 – Transfer to US State Department, transfer to Royal Thai Navy and commissioned as HTMS Sattakut
2007 – Decommissioned by Royal Thai Navy
18th June 2011 – Sunk as an artificial reef off Koh Tao, Thailand
For more information on this PADI Specialty, visit our PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course page.
Author: Matt Bolton (PADI CD 463559)