Dive Aid

The Tsunami Onboard Queen Scuba

Last Updated: 16-Jan-2005, Marcel Bruijs

Hello everyone,

Well, Iím back in Holland now since two weeks. And have to admit that I have some mixed feelings about being here. Yes, itís great to be with my family and friends again. A warm bed, hot shower, windmills and lotís of good cheese. But I miss my ďfamilyĒ from Khao Lak. Before we left for that Christmas Cruise with Queen Scuba I could have never thought the season would end this way.

On the morning the tsunami hit the coasts of South East Asia we were making ourselves up for a wonderful last day of a wonderful Christmas Trip. The customers were a great bunch, the diving was finally getting really good again and we were all quite tired as it had been a very busy but also one of the best trips.

We made our first dive on Koh Tachai around 8:00. Nice dive, bit of current, good visibility. After that we left for Koh Bon and the last dive would be at the Boonsung Wreck. When we arrived at Koh Bon at around 10:30, we saw the weirdest things happening at the surface. Strange thermoclines, small waves, an extremely low water level and later a huge height difference between the water in the bay and the water around Koh Bon. When we checked it out with the dinghy we saw a lot of debris floating and there was a bad smell on the surface. We thought that the full moon and some weird spring tide might be the cause. All the other boats kept distance as well and we decided to cancel the dive and head for the wreck, where we thought it would be calmer.

We didnít realize that a tsunami just had passed us with us hardly noticing anything. We were also unaware about the great tragedy that was happening at that same moment in Khao Lak, Thublamu and basically the whole coastal area. Didnít know that people had fought for their life and then started to help the wounded people with whatever little means they had. Didnít know about all those people that hadnít been able to survive the waves. And didnít know about the total isolation and fear for those who survived.

On the way back, the captain informed us that there was something going on, something about big waves (8-10m) coming our way from Phuket in about two hours and we should stay away from land. On the thai radio we heard something about 20 victims in Phuket and 9 in Khao Lak. Later we also understood that it had something to do with an earthquake in Sumatra.

That made us decide to cancel all the dives, pack the gear and see and wait what would happen. The sea had not been that flat all season and that wouldnít change anymore.

We tried to contact the diveshop to get an explanation but couldnít get through. Then I finally got a phonecall from Pi Aod who was in Thai Muang and he told me that everyone from Coral Grand was OK except for his girlfriend who was being brought to hospital. We should stay another night on the sea and he would try to pick us up the next morning around 11:00. When I asked him why we couldnít go back to Thublamu and Khao Lak he said to me: ďKhao Lak is gone, Thublamu is gone, all boats are goneĒ. I told him I didnít understand and he said: ďYou will see it yourself tomorrowĒ.

Still we didnít understand what was going on but we couldnít do anything but wait. So we told the customers all we knew, got some extra Singha from another boat closeby and went to a fishingboat to get some fish as we had just ran out of food. During the night we got more pieces of information by SMSís that were send to the customers.

The next morning we slowly moved towards the harbour, still guessing what had happened. We were actually expecting everyone to wait for us on the pier so we could quickly go to the diveshop and sort out the customers destinations. We were wondering if Joeís Steakhouse would be OK and what to do about the next trip, the NewYearscruise. There was some debris, but it didnít look too bad on the coast.

Then we rounded the corner and saw the total devastation in Thublamu. It was like a ghosttown. In silence we got the people and the gear from the boat and made our way through towards the equipmentshop which was somehow still intact. There we waited, got some water from the police and navy and later we jumped on some trucks towards the main road and found more chaos as people were trying to leave or go into Khao Lak. Kaide was able to contact Janne from Raya Divers and they picked us up in some big old army trucks and brought us to a little school that served as a camp towards Thai Muang. We heard more and more stories about all the dead people and I started to fear for our friends in Khao Lak. Somehow we heard Steffi was missing, as was one of Klausís friends. When the customers were evacuated to Phuket, Andy and Stu picked us up and we went to Khao Lak. I cannot describe the relief I felt to see everyone there at Happy Snapper.

I canít forget the smell of dead in Khao Lak. And I canít forget the sight of the totally destroyed laundryplace and keep wondering if the laundrygirls made it. And I remember to see the guy from the gas pump at ChongFa, standing in between the rubble with a somewhat confused look on his face. I want to go back and look them up and help. Buy them a new washing machine or a new gasoline pump so they can start their lives again.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest amongst all people. We were on sea, my house was still standing (just moved about a week before) and everyone I know is still alive. I cannot imagine the horrible first day there in Khao Lak and to hear and read the stories just make me realize what a great job you all did for the people who needed help. It also makes me realize what a great life we had in Khao Lak and wish things were back to normal. Just as they were before we left on that Christmas cruise.

Thank you very much for everything you did. Maybe one day it will be the same again.

Take care,
Marcel Bruijs

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