The former American landing ship medium (USS LSM-469) was sunk in February 2003 to mark HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 50th birthday. The intent was to turn the dilapidated ship the Royal Thai Navy had used since 1962 into a thriving artificial reef that would attract both fish and tourists.
The plan worked beyond the Navy’s wildest dreams. Within just three years of its sinking, the ship teemed with life, including huge batfish, thousands of juvenile barracuda and even a resident turtle. Fishing was largely banned on the vessel, so its marine population grew with the coral on the ship.
The 60-meter-long Khram sits in about 27 m. of water in the upright “sailing” position. The top was at about 15 m., but as the ship ages, weaker parts of the exterior have collapsed. The ship was well prepared by navy as a dive site and is free of armaments, oil and most hazards to divers. Some of the ship’s compartments are filled with schools of fish, including sweet tips and blue-spotted rays.
While popular, the wreck is not the easiest of dives. It lies in 27 meters of water and often buffeted by strong currents that reduce visibility as little as 5 m.
Large holes have been cut in many areas and penetration dives through the ships passageways rarely takes the diver out of natural light. However, care still needs to be taken with some rooms as not all the doors have been removed. The bridge, radio and engine rooms are more easily accessible, but silt can be a problem if you are not careful with your fins. If you want really detailed info on the construction and possible penetration points, you can find photos of the original blueprint plans here.
The Khram was a landing craft that was in service for more than 60 years. As such, the bottom of the vessel is quite flat with the port and starboard sides built up, providing interesting passageways to explore. Although the engines have been removed, the dials, gauges and pipes all remain in the otherwise empty engine room.
The three main areas of interest are the bridge and radio room, main deck and side passages, and the engine room.
The bridge and radio room is the highest point on the Khram. It’s actually possible to stand here. All the glass has been removed, as have any parts – the telegraph, steering mechanism, etc – that had any reusable value. Entry here is safe and easy.
The engine room can be accessed via a large access hole in the middle of the load deck. There’s plenty of natural light here and easy to move around in as the engines have been removed. The compartment has many pipes gauges and dials. Silt can be a problem nowadays, however, to watch your fins!
The deck and side passageways comprise the majority of the ship, as it was made for carrying tanks, troops and equipment to a beach head. There are several points of entry into the well-lit corridors.
HTMS Khram Facts and Specifications
- Laid down: Date unknown at Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex.
- Launched: Date unknown
- Commissioned USS LSM-469, March 17, 1945 with Lt. Lee S. Barton, USNR in command.
- During and after World War II LSM-469 was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater
- Decommissioned: Aug. 29, 1946 at Astoria, Ore.
- Laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet: Columbia River Group, Astoria
- Struck from the Naval Register (date unknown)
- Transferred, May 25, 1962 to Thailand and renamed the HTMS Khram (L-732)
- Decommissioned: Date unknown
- Final Disposition: Sunk as an artificial reef Feb. 1, 2003
Displacement: 520 t.(light), 743 t.(landing) 1,095 t.(fully loaded)
- Length: 203′ 6″
- Beam: 34′ 6″
- Draft: Light, 3′ 6″ forward, 7′ 8″ aft, fully loaded, 6′ 4″ forward, 8′ 3″ aft
- Speed: 13.2kts, (max.), (928 tons displacement)
- Complement: Four officers, 54 enlisted
- Armament: One single bow mounted 40mm gun, four single 20mm gun mounts
- Vehicle/Boat Capacity: Five medium or three heavy tanks, or six LVT’s, or nine DUKW’s
- Troop Accommodations: Two officers, 46 enlisted
- Armor 10 lb. STS splinter shield to gun mounts, pilot house and conning station
- Propulsion two Fairbanks Morse (model 38D81/8X10, reversible with hydraulic clutch) diesels. Direct drive with 1,440 BHP each @ 720rpm, twin screws
- Endurance: 4,900 miles at 12kts.(928 tons displacement)