Treasure-diving between blowfish and stingray

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by Björn Schöpe
translated by Teresa Teklic

September 4, 2014 – Here’s a quiz for you: blowfishes, stingrays, ghosts and spirits are the most commonly encountered dangers for which professional category? You probably won’t guess, it’s really very specific. 

Origin of the Chao Phraya River. Photo: Heinrich Damm /

Thailand’s rivers are still populated by divers searching for treasures. A short video available on the website of the Bangkok Post shows an expert in this area at work. When the man describes his work, it sounds rather unspectacular: “It’s my job to dive in the Chao Phraya river for ancient objects.”
For forty years the nameless man has been diving and recovering treasures from Thailand’s big river with only the most basic equipment. If the river doesn’t disgorge enough treasures, the family moves on to the next province.

The haul yields enough money to support the family. The diver discovers ceramic and porcelain ware, sometimes gold and coins. The video shows him in his room, surrounded by a plethora of objects. In fact, some things are hard to sell, the man tells us. He prefers receiving specific commissions from people who have lost something in the river.

Even humans can suffer fatal injuries inflicted by stingrays. Photo: Albert Kok /

The most common danger he encounters at work are stingrays and blowfishes. It is almost impossible to defend yourself against these fish without special equipment. But the diver is also scared of spirits and ghosts. Colleagues were telling him about weird noises when carrying home their haul. Nothing similar has happened to him so far. Other than fish, such supernatural creatures can be appeased with prayers and offerings, he says. The authorities, on the other hand, do not (yet) seem to pose a danger to the profession.

And so the diver prays for large hauls. After all, he has a family to feed.

You can watch the video here.