Scuba diving & underwater archaeology

Scuba diving & underwater archaeology

Passionate about history, Pornnatcha prepared from an early age for this exciting career that combines diving under the sea with archaeology.

Pornnatcha Sankhaprasit - photo by Pichaya Svasti


Diving into the past

Pornnatcha Sankhaprasit, Thailand's first female underwater archaeologist, talks about her passion for Thai history and her job. 


Pichaya Svasti

Wearing a diving suit, fins, a scuba tank and other diving equipment, 26-year-old Pornnatcha Sankhaprasit is ready to dive down 22m into the sea to survey the Rang Khwian shipwreck site 10km off the shore of Satthahip district, Chon Buri.

About half-an-hour later, she and her colleagues emerge from the water with a piece of ivory, a fragment of pottery and two Chinese coins dating back to the Ayutthaya period. Pornnatcha is an underwater archaeologistShe has had a passion for Thai history since childhood and worked as a volunteer assistant to underwater archaeologists since she was 19 after attending a summer camp at the Fine Arts Department's Office of Underwater Archaeology in Chanthaburi. She earned a bachelor's degree in archaeology from Silpakorn University.  After graduation, she became an archaeologist at the 11th Fine Arts Office in Ubon Ratchathani and worked in Kalasin, Roi Et and Khon Kaen for four years.

In addition to scuba diving, to become an underwater archaeologist  Pornnatacha had be trained in how to use special machinery such as sonar devices for locating shipwrecks, underwater cameras for recording the locations of finds, and sand vacuum machines for finding objects on the sea floor.

Each diving trip can last from a week up to a month. Every dive takes about 30 minutes. They usually make one dive a day and reach an average depth of 30 meters, however, highly experienced divers can go as deep as 60m. Pornnatcha once went down as far as 36m.

"Just finding an undamaged pot is exciting for me. Water pressure and poor vision can impair our ability and judgement, plus we are thinking about so many things simultaneously. This could include having to focus on the task at hand or the air left in our cylinders," she says. 

This occupation is known as a risky one. Every month the divers receive a risk allowance in addition to their salary and about three years ago, an underwater archaeologist died on duty after emerging from the water too fast and failing to adjust to the rapid change in pressure.

Underwater archaeology officially began in Thailand in 1974 with an excavation in Satthahip Bay, Chon Buri, carried out by the Fine Arts Department and supported by the Royal Thai Navy. Technical assistance and training was provided by the Danish government in 1975 and staff was increased from four naval officers to a team of 15 marine archaeologists, Fine Arts Department officials and navy officers.

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  • ability: a level of skill or intelligence - ความสามารถม กังวลใจ
  • additional: more; more than was first mentioned or is usual - ที่เพิ่มขึ้น
  • adjust: to change something slightly, especially to make it more correct, effective, or suitable - ปรับ
  • allowance: an amount of money that someone receives in order to pay for the things that they need - เงินสนับสนุน
  • archaeologist: someone who studies the buildings, graves, tools and other objects of people who lived in the past - นักโบราณคด
  • assistance: help; aid - ความช่วยเหลือ
  • assistant: a person who helps or supports somebody, usually in their job - ผู้ช่วย
  • attend: to go to an event, such as a meeting, a show, a sports competition, etc. - เข้าร่วม (ในการประชุม, งานต่าง)
  • average: ordinary; not unusual or different in any way - ธรรมดา, ปกติ
  • bachelor’s degree: the first degree that you get when you study at a university. Bachelor’s degrees include Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) - ระดับปริญญาตรี
  • coin (noun): a flat round piece of metal used as money in a country - เหรียญ
  • colleague (noun): someone who works in the same organisation or department as you do or someone you know who has the same type of job - เพื่อนร่วมงาน
  • cylinder: an object shaped like a wide tube; a metal container for gas or liquid - กระบอก
  • depth: the distance down either from the top of something to the bottom, or to a distance below the top surface of something - ความลึก
  • device (noun): a machine or piece of equipment that does a particular job - อุปกรณ์ เครื่องมือ เครื่องจักร
  • dive (noun): one trip by a diver underwater - ดำน้ำ
  • diver: a person who works underwater, usually with special equipment - นักดำน้ำ
  • diving: the activity of going underwater, usually with special equipment - นักดำน้ำ
  • emerge: to appear or to become recognised - โผล่ออกมา
  • emerge: to come out of - ออกจาก
  • equipment: the things that are needed for a particular purpose or activity - อุปกรณ์, เครื่องมือ
  • excavation: removing earth that is covering very old objects buried in the ground in order to discover things about the past - กระบวนการขุดค้นหาวัตถุโบราณ
  • experience: the knowledge and skill that you have gained through doing something for a period of time - ประสบการณ์
  • female: being a woman or a girl - สตรี, ผู้หญิง, เพศหญิ
  • finding (noun): results, what people "find" or discover by doing some research or activity - ผลของการสืบค้น, ผลของการค้นหา
  • fine arts (noun): art activities in which people create beautiful things to look at such as paintings and drawings - วิจิตรศิลป์, งานช่างศิลป์
  • focus: to give attention, effort, etc. to one particular subject, situation or person rather than another - เพ่งความสนใจ
  • fragment: a small piece of a large object that has broken, often into a lot of pieces - ส่วนที่แตกออกมา
  • impair (verb): to damage something or make something worse - ทำให้แย่ลง, ทำให้คุณภาพลดลง, ทำให้เสียหาย
  • ivory: the yellowish-white bone that an elephant’s tusks are made of - ทนต์
  • ivory: the yellowish-white colour of the bone that an elephant’s tusks are made of - สีงาช้าง
  • judgement: the decision of a court or a judge; a verdict - พิพากษา
  • last: to continue for a particular length of time - กินเวลา
  • locate: to find where someone or something is - หาทำเล,หาที่ตั้ง
  • location: where someone or something is - ที่ตั้ง,ทำเล
  • machinery (noun): a piece of equipment or device that does something and gets its energy from electricity or gas - เครื่องจักร, เครื่องกล
  • marine: relating to the sea and creatures that live in it - เกี่ยวกับทะเล
  • object: a thing that can be seen or touched, but is not alive - วัตถุ, สิ่งของ
  • occupation: a job - อาชีพ
  • official: someone with an important position in an organisation - เจ้าหน้าที่
  • passion: a strong enthusiasm or interest - ความชื่นชม หลงใหล 
  • pressure: (of a force) to press against something - กดดัน, อัด, บีบ
  • rapid: happening quickly - อย่างรวดเร็ว
  • record: a written account of something that is kept so that it can be looked at and used in the future - การบันทึก, รายงาน
  • risk: the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen - ความเสี่ยง
  • risky  (adj):  involving the possibility of danger, harm or failure - เสี่ยง, เสี่ยงอันตราย
  • salary: a fixed amount of money that you earn each month or year from your job - เงินเดือน
  • sand (noun): the loose pale brown or white substance found at the beach or on the desert - ทราย
  • sea floor: the bottom of the sea -
  • shipwreck: an accident in which a ship is destroyed or sunk at sea, especially by hitting rocks, or a ship which has been destroyed or sunk in such an accident - ซากเรืออับปาง
  • shore: the land along the edge of the sea or ocean, a lake or another large area of water - ชายฝั่ง
  • simultaneously: happening at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน,ที่พร้อมกัน
  • site: a place where something is located - สถานที่
  • sonar: a piece of equipment on ships that shows the location of objects under the water and how deep the water is - ระบบหาวัตถุใต้น้ำด้วยคลื่นเสียง,เครื่องส่งเสียงสะท้อนใต้น้ำ
  • staff: workers employed by a person or organisation considered as a group - คณะผู้ทำงาน, คนงาน
  • survey: the act of examining and recording available information - การสำรวจ, การหาข้อมูล
  • tank (noun): an object shaped like a wide tube; a metal container for gas or liquid - กระบอก
  • task: something that you have to do - งาน, หน้าที่; ภารกิจ
  • technical: connected with the skills needed for a particular job, sport, art, etc; connected with practical methods for doing something - ในทางเทคนิค
  • the task at hand: the task or work that you have to do or are doing -
  • trained: having received special instruction - ฝึกหัดมาแล้ว
  • training (noun): teaching people how to do a certain job or activity - การฝึกอบรม, การฝึก, การอบรม
  • vacuum (noun): a vaccum cleaner; equipment for cleaning rugs, carpets... - เครื่องดูดฝุ่น
  • vision: the ability to see; the area that you can see from a particular position - การมองเห็น
  • volunteer (noun): someone who is not paid for the work that they do; someone who does something willingly without being required to - อาสาสมัคร
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