Photos: Thai ‘Indiana Jones’ divers scour Bangkok’s murky river for treasure

Updated On Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

Thailand’s “Indiana Jones” divers brave the inky-black underworld of the trash-filled waterway in search of coins, jewellery and scrap metal. The divers can turn a decent profit by selling a few copper coins-- some 500 baht (USD 15) which is nearly twice Thailand’s daily minimum wage. If lucky, a piece of jewelry or a rare coin in good condition can be sold for up to USD 300 at Bangkok’s antique markets. But the divers’ fate is in limbo as urban development threatens their riverside community.

1 / 9
Kneeling before his homemade metal scuba helmet, Bhoomin Samang (pictured) prays for good fortune before he dives into the day’s work -- scouring the bed of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river for sunken treasure. The 62-year-old is part of a small community known as Thailand’s “Indiana Jones” divers, who brave the inky-black underworld of the trash-filled waterway in search of coins, jewellery and scrap metal. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

Kneeling before his homemade metal scuba helmet, Bhoomin Samang (pictured) prays for good fortune before he dives into the day’s work -- scouring the bed of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river for sunken treasure. The 62-year-old is part of a small community known as Thailand’s “Indiana Jones” divers, who brave the inky-black underworld of the trash-filled waterway in search of coins, jewellery and scrap metal. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

2 / 9
Bhoomin leaves his house in a boat with his home-made metal scuba helmet. “We look for old coins, sometimes we are hired to find lost objects in the river,” said the veteran diver who has been scouring the river for 30 years. Sometimes the find is more macabre -- the divers have stumbled across skulls and skeletons as they feel their way along the river bed in total darkness. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

Bhoomin leaves his house in a boat with his home-made metal scuba helmet. “We look for old coins, sometimes we are hired to find lost objects in the river,” said the veteran diver who has been scouring the river for 30 years. Sometimes the find is more macabre -- the divers have stumbled across skulls and skeletons as they feel their way along the river bed in total darkness. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

3 / 9
The “Indiana Jones” divers use makeshift equipment and operate under the radar in the middle of the country’s urban metropolis. Wearing shorts and T-shirt, they jump off the motorised skiff into a river strewn with city sewage and debris. The boxy helmet that weighs around 20 kilos, and is hooked up to a rubber tube that connects to an air tank aboard the boat, keeps oxygen flowing into their body. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

The “Indiana Jones” divers use makeshift equipment and operate under the radar in the middle of the country’s urban metropolis. Wearing shorts and T-shirt, they jump off the motorised skiff into a river strewn with city sewage and debris. The boxy helmet that weighs around 20 kilos, and is hooked up to a rubber tube that connects to an air tank aboard the boat, keeps oxygen flowing into their body. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

4 / 9
A diver displays rare coins recovered from the bottom of Bangkok's Chao Phraya river. After 15 minutes underwater, the divers resurface with a cotton bag stuffed with mud. Bhoomin pans it out on a metal dish, revealing several 200-year-old copper and bullet coins with pictures of 19th century Thai kings Rama IV and V on them -- artifacts divers call “regulars.” (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

A diver displays rare coins recovered from the bottom of Bangkok's Chao Phraya river. After 15 minutes underwater, the divers resurface with a cotton bag stuffed with mud. Bhoomin pans it out on a metal dish, revealing several 200-year-old copper and bullet coins with pictures of 19th century Thai kings Rama IV and V on them -- artifacts divers call “regulars.” (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

5 / 9
The coins trace the history of the Thai capital’s lively waterfront, whose traditional stilted homes are increasingly being knocked down for development. “In the old days, we lived on rafts and had floating markets. Villagers lost their jewellery and money in the river,” said Bhoomin. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

The coins trace the history of the Thai capital’s lively waterfront, whose traditional stilted homes are increasingly being knocked down for development. “In the old days, we lived on rafts and had floating markets. Villagers lost their jewellery and money in the river,” said Bhoomin. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

6 / 9
The divers can turn a decent profit by selling a few copper coins-- some 500 baht (USD 15) which is nearly twice Thailand’s daily minimum wage. If lucky, a piece of jewellery or a rare coin in good condition can be sold for up to USD 300 at Bangkok’s antique markets. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

The divers can turn a decent profit by selling a few copper coins-- some 500 baht (USD 15) which is nearly twice Thailand’s daily minimum wage. If lucky, a piece of jewellery or a rare coin in good condition can be sold for up to USD 300 at Bangkok’s antique markets. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

7 / 9
But the divers’ fate is in limbo as urban development threatens their riverside community, which stands on weathered wooden stilts. Bangkok officials have ordered the families to relocate away from the river as part of the junta government’s gentrification plan for the city. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

But the divers’ fate is in limbo as urban development threatens their riverside community, which stands on weathered wooden stilts. Bangkok officials have ordered the families to relocate away from the river as part of the junta government’s gentrification plan for the city. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

8 / 9
Buddhist stone amulets recovered by divers. Taking artifacts is also technically prohibited and can be punished with fines or jail time. Bhoomin, however, defends the trade, saying divers only go for the small stuff. Then again, the lure of something special is always just around the river bend. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

Buddhist stone amulets recovered by divers. Taking artifacts is also technically prohibited and can be punished with fines or jail time. Bhoomin, however, defends the trade, saying divers only go for the small stuff. Then again, the lure of something special is always just around the river bend. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

9 / 9
A Buddha statue and China ceramic set retrieved by the divers. “We don’t know what we will find or where we will go today,” said Somsak Ongsaard. “It’s exciting,” added the 29-year-old diver. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Aug 01, 2018 02:23 PM IST

A Buddha statue and China ceramic set retrieved by the divers. “We don’t know what we will find or where we will go today,” said Somsak Ongsaard. “It’s exciting,” added the 29-year-old diver. (Sippachai Kunnuwong / AFP)

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, February 06, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals