By Manta Klangboonkrong - The Nation
There's a cargo barge that a storm sent to the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand more than a century ago - and only recently has advanced scuba equipment allowed its secrets to be revealed.
Fishermen found the iron steamboat Ruea Mail last year, 90 minutes by boat off Rayong's Klaeng district.
Only about 10 divers have visited the completely intact vessel since then.
The government's Underwater Archaeology Division has the daunting task of protecting and preserving dozens of shipwrecks believed to have sunk en route to Vietnam, laden with coins and other metal ware.
A handful of these are being retrieved - everything else will be preserved in situ.
That noble ambition isn't easily realized. The Underwater Archaeology Division of the government's Fine Arts Department is striving to protect 64 wreck sites and others being regularly reported.
Barring illegal treasure hunters is the biggest part of the challenge, but the artifacts have also to be protected from the ravages of time and unwitting human damage.
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