Riverbed Divers Make Living Off Vietnam War Relics and Corpses

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Divers in Vietnam are making a living off of war relics and corpsesDivers in Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau province are making a living searching for remnants lying rusty at the bottom of the Cai Lon River. 

VIETNAM–The divers, who hunt for everything from bullets and grenades to sunken boats and even human bodies, recently managed to tow to the surface a 45m by 14m US gunner boat which was hit and sunk during the Vietnam War decades ago.

Diver Dam Van Dung said there are still two large US ships on the river bottom.

“Though the ships are cumbersome, they can be raised,” he said smiling.

The rusty bullets and other weapons they found were sold as scrap metal.

There is one particular local, 45-year-old Ngo Van Quang who has been searching for human bodies since 1975…

     

He said he did not remember how many corpses he managed to salvage from the river, never demanding a single cent in fees.

He does it all for the sake of helping others.

He recalled the indescribable feeling of lifting up the body of a colleague who died after a dive into a ship compartment, unable to find his way out after his snorkel slipped out of place.

Seasoned woman diver

Locals here all know Dam Thi Duyen, a 47-year-old woman living by the riverbank. Her main job is to manage a fleet of divers who salvage things on contract.

But sometimes money is not the motive. She said she once towed a sunken vessel to the surface that had tangled and sunk boats trying to navigate the river.

There was one case when a funeral procession was moving on the river when the ship was stuck, resulting in a jolt sending the coffin and the corpse overboard, she said.

She had to mobilize nearly 50 divers to remove that problematic ship from the river.

Divers here don’t use scuba gear, special clothes or goggles. The only use snorkels, but experienced divers can go down as far as 50 meters, she said.

Lower than that, they will be crushed by pressure, she added.

After her elder brother died 8 years ago salvaging a fishing boat for a fee, she traveled to the US to be reunited with her husband and children who have settled there.

But shortly afterwards missed the river and returned, where she now lives and works with 5 divers.


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