It was a typical weekday for the Marine Conservation team in Kiabu. We started the day by visiting the coral reef restoration location on Semut Island for a regular monitoring. The transplanted corals were overall in good condition and thriving, though a few of them were covered by algae so we needed to brush them off carefully with a toothbrush so as not to damage the baby corals.
The monitoring went on for 1.5 hours, and after that we then we had our lunch. While we were enjoying our lunch, bang Adi, a fisherman who took us to Semut, told us that not far from here there was a Thai fishing ship that sank 18 years ago.
Apparently, in the early 2000s there were plenty of Thai fishing vessels that did illegal fishing in Anambas territory. This particular ship was trying to flee the scene as it was being chased by the Indonesian patrol boat, however, there was a leak inside the ship and it capsized. The patrol boat rescued the captain and crew but left the ship to drown.
His story caught our attention. Throughout our time doing conservation in Kiabu we had never discovered something as big as a ship underwater, so we thought it’d be exciting to go to where the sunken ship was located and see it with our own eyes.
It only took us 30 minutes to get to the location. While bang Andi was anchoring the boat we were busy putting on our diving gears, once the anchor touched the bottom of the ocean we then proceeded with our diving.
Diving to find the shipwreck was slightly challenging as the ocean floor was more than 30 meters deep (only advanced divers were allowed to dive up to 30m). We were still unable to see the ocean floor clearly when we reached the 30-meter mark and only began to see the seabed when we were down around 35 meters’ depth, by this point we saw a huge rope that led us to the shipwreck.
What we found was a massive ship, we estimated it weighed around 100 gross tonnage. We circled the wreckage and saw some parts of it were still intact even though it had been underwater for 18 years. We encountered lots of fish and even saw groupers and large snappers inside the wreckage. In some areas, the wreckage was covered by corals and deep-sea animals, there were small animals who took shelter inside the ship’s body too.
We unfortunately only had five minutes to check out the site to avoid decompression sickness. We took as many videos and photos as possible before we returned to our boat where bang Adi was waiting for us. Even though the ship looked a bit scary, we can see this site becoming a must-visit attraction that will attract plenty of visitors in the future. All in all, this impromptu trip was a fascinating discovery and experience for us and was undoubtedly one for the books!