Know: I was out at sea when a tsunami strike

I closed my sees, clenched my teeth and in my imagination said goodbye

In December 2004 I had just become a professional photographer and was working on a project about parishes who live on the high seas, known as sea nomads. I was living with members of the Chao-Ley tribe on a small island within the Tarutao National Marine Park in southern Thailand. I had a beach bungalow and spent a month getting to know the nomads. We didnt share a language, and relied on clue and body language to communicate.

I went out to sea with them regularly. The viewpoint was paradise. There was the bright blue sea, and scattered on the horizon were small islands that you could see clearly, even though they were 15 km away.

On the morning of 26 December, I was due to set out with a group of six Chao-Ley fishermen in a small long-tail ship. It was about 8am, and the sea searched different; sterile and tinged with a grey-silver colouring. The liquid was absolutely still. I could tell from the road the fishermen were reacting that something wasnt right. They seemed to be discussing whether or not we should set off, but the eldest, who operated the craft, leaved the go-ahead.

About 20 hours after our departure and a few miles away on the high seas, one of the fishermen pointed to a small white place far in the distance. We impeded an attention on it. It looked like a football. It was going bigger and bigger very quickly. We had no idea that this was a tsunamiwave rapidity through the atlantic provinces like a tornado.

With a big wave, you would usually try to get as far out as is practicable into the open sea. The deeper the sea, the weaker the brandish. But we werent far enough out to be safe , nor close enough to the shoring to make it back before the waving would stumble the estate. We were stuck.

When I realised that the nomads were afraid, I began to feel really scared. These boys were effectively born on the high seas. At some extent the elder, the skipper, took self-restraint. No one panicked or bellowed, but they moved quickly. The officer told the six members of us where to sit, based on our load and altitude, so we would balance out the craft. He asked us to hold on tight.

My camera was in my rucksack. With the movement just a few hundred metres behind us, I wanted to captivate the scene, but I couldnt. Any shift would imbalance the ship, but I also felt paralysed by the “ve thought about” imminent extinction. I pondered, Whats the level in taking a paint if we are about to be cleaned overboard? I was sitting on one of the benches in the middle, with my back facing the five-to-seven-metre-high waving. I took one last look over my shoulder at this monster that was about to smacked. I took a very firm control of my set, closed my attentions, clenched my teeth and in my subconsciou said goodbye to the world, my family and friends.

Suddenly there was a huge noise and a jolt. The motion had thumped the ship, but in the split second of influence, the improbably skilled skipper got it right. He managed to swerve us up and on to the motion. We were channel-surf it for a few seconds. Then the boat glided from the gratuity of the wave down behind it, into safe oceans. Astonishingly , no ocean splashed into the ship, and no one went overboard. He had saved us all.

The adrenaline hitting through my veins realise “i m feeling” completely insane. Our eyes and mouth disease were wide open and everyone let out heavy exhales. We abode at sea for another hour or so and then represented our style back to the beach. On small island developing we could see some mar, but nothing are comparable to which is something we afterwards assured had happened in other parts of south-east Asia.

Surviving gave me a deep understanding of how short life can be. Ive been going back to south-east Asia almost every year. The photographic campaign has become a adoration and thank you to the people who saved “peoples lives”. The illustration I wanted to take over the barge remains the one that got away I see every photographer has one. But mine changed my life.

Do you have an experience to share? Email suffer @theguardian. com

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