The end of a King

One of the top-priority missions on my recent visit to Thailand was to once again find and document the last exact resting position of the former Norwegian coastal steamer carrying the name of the beloved former Norwegian people’s king, Kong Olav.

The long drive started a day earlier at the north-eastern city of Sakhon Nakhon at 11:30 in the morning of June 5th 2015. Kilometers by kilometers turned into miles after miles, passing through Bangkok just after midnight. At 2:30 in the morning of June 6th 2015, my batteries ran at down to empty and I had to sacrifice a few hours sleep in the car at a PTT gas station near Petchburi. After a few hours “sleep", at 5 in the morning, the gas tank was topped up once again and the wheels started rolling again. As the car rolled south passed Hua Hin, Cha Am, Pranburi and eventually Chumpon, there was only one mission in my mind, to be able to find, record the exact position and take some photographs of the dying former coastal steamer which so many people hold dear in their heart. This time, I really had limited time to spare, and I therefore had to drive only with occational gas stations stops to replace the Red Bull in my liver with fresh bottles.

A few hours before noon on June 6th 2015, I reached Chumpon and I was so near I could not waste any time to make a stop. The roadworks on the road to Ranong was a test of patience. At the pace of a snail, I eventually closed up on the suspected village. I started stopping roadside more and more frequently to check my GPS. It should be any time now. 

Suddenly, after a long straight road, I saw a bridge crossing a canal ahead. This was my first suspected place. I could now be there, at the very location. Better slow my car down if it wasn’t for that tail-gating truck on my rear bumper. Onto the bridge, I threw my head towards the right - and there, just 200 meters down the canal, I caught a glimpse of the former King. 

A few hundred meters ahead, I threw myself on the brakes and turned off the road, making a u-turn and backtracking to the small bridge over Lam Siang (alternatively Laem Siang). Changing lenses, stopping the car, and walking out on the bridge, I hesitated not even one single minute to start taking pictures. 

As I had done a buch of images, and ageing man came on a motorbike and said I can not take pictures there. After a short conversation, I realized photography was not welcomed so I eventually stopped taking pictures. After all, I had already been able to do at least a 100 already. I walked back to the car, left my camera and walked by the tiny cluster of shattered houses by the bridge to try get some information. Now, that was difficult. Nobody seemed eager to say anything at all, nor disclose any details. Asking to get a better side view of the ship, the tone changed quite a bit and I clearly understood, it wasn’t welcomed. 

I did however understand, whether it is correct or not, that the riverbank where the ship sits, might be a part of the private property which belongs to the owner or owners family. It is all fenced in, gated, and has large signs to quite directly ordering anyone to “stay out”. 

From Google Earth, I believe the site has the means and tools to possible dismantle the ship there. That doesn’t necessarily mean she will actually be scrapped on site. 

So, with a huge lump in my heart, I realize that this is where the once proud and beautiful ship, ends her life in agony and shame. The extremely popular ship was built in Bergen, Norway, for Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskap and delivered to the company in April 1964. Back then, the building price was 16,5 million NOK. Her life included 33 years of coastal voyages in Norway before being sold and for the most part, unused for the next 18 years.

Born in Bergen, perhised in agony in a small canal between Ranong and Chumpon in Thailand. 

Even I realize that all ships must eventually die, be recycled, and that we can clearly not save each and every one based on our emotions and experiences. But, that being said, the one thing that angers me more than anything else, is the utter disrespect and offensive use of her name even until this sad state. The fact the ship still carries the name of Norway’s most popular people’s king, is borderline disrespectful and clearly what others would define as a lèse-majesté. 

As my heart cries together with all those that served on her, all those that sailed on her, may our beautiful ship remain in our hearts as the true gem she once was. 

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