Dive Aid

My most Liquid Adventure

Last Updated: 23-Jan-2005, Joakim

Hi Everyone,

It feels like it is time to tell you what happened in my little world lately. Time really flies, but there is something that is not right. Sure, the Zunami meant a big change, but normally I find it easy to adapt to changes.

The differens this time could be that I can't only think about myself, but also my family, but our children have no problem to adapt (except for the fact that it is Emily's first encounter with properly furnished rooms). Su has been more active in trying to move us to Sweden. She has been positive all the time, but she also realises how difficult it can be to move from one side of the world to another. She is still positive, and she is eager to start learning Swedish. No, I think it is me having difficulties accepting that my time in Paradise might have come to an end.

I find it most difficult to accept that there was nothing I could do about the powers of the sea that in a few minutes, just after half ten, changed everything. The first thing I saw of the Zunami was for the shop, a not to serious flooding. The shop was situated about 5 metres (16 feet) above normal high tide level. I let in a few scared-the-shit-out-of-Thais, and didn't think the flooding would cause any more damage to the floor than our wet dive equipment. These Thais ran straight towards our backdoor. I don't know who they were, and I have never seen them again.

Next second, when I turn towards the front again, there is nothing but water. I made a attempt to close the front door (as if that would make a differens) and then I tried to run to the back, to seek shelter behind the wall, but before I had even taken one full step I was caught by the wave.

I have heared many people discussing whether it was a wave or if the sea-level just roose quickly. My opinion is that it was a wave, but sinse the wave was about ten metres high it started breaking when travelling in water that was less than ten metres deep. The seabed off Khao Lak is shallow, and the water is no deeper than 10 metres about a mile (Naut.) off the coast. What we saw on land, or for a minute what used to be land, was a wave after it had broken, and that looks just as any wave, but the amount of water was much larger.

While the shop rapidly filled with murky seawater I tried to swim towards the ceiling to get air, but before I get there the shop is already completely full of water. I then try to swim towards the front of the shop, but the water is too turbulent, making it impossible to swim anywhere. It feels as if I'm inside a washing machine and after a while I get thrown into the equipment room. The backdoor only opens inwards, leaving me with nowhere to go. I know I was lucky staying concious and also not cutting myself on any glass or other suddenly-light-enough-to-fly-objects, but still nowhere to go. I soon realised I wouldn't be able to get out and it was impossible to swim towards the ceiling in hope of finding an airpocket under the ceiling. If anyone, then and there in the backroom, would have asked me how I was, I probably wouldn't have answered "always fine".

I don't know for how long I was in the equipment room, but I had time to realise that I most likely wouldn't be able to get out of there by myself. Still, I didn't panic. Under slightly less stress I normally find some easy way out of trouble, but this time I couldn't find a solution. I spent a few moments trying to understand what had happened. Water level was of course going to go down, but that never struck me when inside the room. The water was still turbulent and I couldn't figure out what was upp or down. I slowly started accepting the thought of not being able to get out of the shop alive.

Suddenly I was pushed in some direction. It felt like the water around me and myself had gotten a kick from a giant horse, and a moment later I could see some light. I gave it everything I had to get to the light, and finally I was there. Once there I realised that I was in the ditch behind the shop, but at least 5 metres above it. The enormous water pressure had simply pushed the back walls away. There was a current on the surface taking me further towards... land(?). Under the surface, the water was starting to go back to the sea. I had to swim hard just to stay at the surface.

After being pushed about 50 metres further upstream(?) I got close enough to the back of Happy Lagoon restaurant, to get hold of a concrete foundation. The water was now seriously starting to head back out, and I up on the washing up area. I didn't know if there was another wave coming, and I didn't exactly know where I was. For a few moments I just stood, trying to figure out whether this place was safe enough, or where I could go to be safe.

Seconds later I hear people talking, and I realise where I am. I still didn't know this wasn't an isolated incident just in Nang Tong. First I ran off to see if the people that I knew at Happy Lagoon were ok. After a few steps I passed the first dead body. Without getting in to details, I didn't need to touch her to know that there was no point in giving mouth-to-mouth. I then realised this was going to be a very long day.

I didn't find Su and Emily until late in the afternoon. Both were ok. Amanda had stayed with Peung, our driver, and his girlfriend. She had been taken care of by their neighbours and was now up somewhere in the mountains. It took a while to find all of our staff and near friends. Paul showed up in the evening and Sara showed up the next day. We had gotten information that she was ok already on the day before.

Sara told us that when they arrived at the Similans they were told they couldn't dive. There had been a message to all boats in the area that there might be a big wave coming, and therefore they were going to be transfered to a bigger boat. This shows that authorities were aware of the situation about an hour before the wave hit Khao Lak.

One rumour tells that the authorities choose not to tell tourists with regards to economical reasons. That makes sense. It also means that authorities didn't understand what damage a Tsunami could cause, and rather than to cause panic over something that might not be a serious threat they choose not to push the button. Now, afterwards, the government is talking about installing a warning system, but that is of course only a way to hide someones incompetense. The information was there. The United States managed to evaquate terrorist prisoners from an island somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

I am really impressed with all the effort that our friends have put in to help us after the Tsunami. Many friends from our time on Koh Tao, previous guests from Khao Lak, family and friends back home have given us an enormous support in every way. It is impossible to tell you how much we apprechiated your efforts. I am also very impressed and proud of the way the Swedish people have contributed to the wictims of the Tsunami.

Everyone who worked at Liquid Adventure, everyone from 'our' staff who were now working at other dive centres and those of our friends from our time on Koh Tao who worked in Khao Lak, have all made it alive. Even Jo's dog, Ann, made it. (Officially I have an opinion about dogs, but in this case I will from now on make an exception). This is of course better than anyone could ever hope for, and I realise just how lucky we all were.

I want to particularly thank my staff. (This includes Jo & Klaus, who run their own company) Already before the catastrophy I knew they had all the qualities that a manager can ask for. After the Tsunami they have all excelled in their efforts to take care of injured people, organizing, transporting injured people and to assist people who were missing friends and relatives. This time they have all showed that they are not only the best, but also the best when it really matters.

We are still missing some of our guests. I am trying to find more information via Internet. Those of you that have some information about people who have been at Liquid Adventure or who have been in touch with us regarding bookings etc, please drop me an email. I lost all of our contact details in the Tsunami.

Many people have asked me 'what happens next?' I have been asked several times whether I am going to open the shop next season. I don't have the answer for that question, right now. The only thing I know for sure is that I am not going to close any doors in any directions. Beginning of August I will have to decide wether to open or not. That gives me enough time to get new equipment, and to rebuild the shop. Until then, I will try to save as much money as possible, to make sure I can afford to open.

Peronally, I will not open a dive centre anywhere else. I might still be interested in a joint venture, but my family and I would prefer to stay in Thailand or in Sweden. If I decide to join someone else in opening a dive centre, I would not be running the business.

In case we decide to stay in Sweden for any longer time, I will try to get a real job. There isn't really any demand for ex-dive centre managers who have spent their last six years in the Golden Triangle. If you happen to know anyone who is looking someone like me, just drop me a line. I also know that some staff is looking for jobs. I would apprechiate if someone could help them in finding jobs.

I hope I will be able to stay in touch with you all. Please do not expect me to always be able to email you back the same day.

All the Best,

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