Thai Caving 101: How a Simple Hike Became An International Rescue Nightmare
For most people, getting trapped in a cave is scary enough. Now imagine walking into a dry cave for two miles, and having the water begin to rise behind you and in front of you. The Thai soccer team currently trapped in the Tham Luang cave have fallen victim to Thailand's monsoon season rains and to make matters worse their air is running out.
What makes this operation unprecedented is that Thai Navy SEAL Divers are having to turn 12-year old boys into expert cave divers to make the extraction. The Tham Luang cave is described as the Mount Everest of cave dives. Rain water filled the caves after they had walked through them, effectively trapping them over 2 miles from where they entered. Each extraction takes 11hrs to complete. Each boy, paired with a diver will have to navigate 2.5 miles of flooded, narrow caverns back to the entrance. Rescue teams have been pumping millions of gallons of water from the cave in an attempt to lower water levels so the boys can simply walk out but everyday continues to be a race against time as rain clouds gather over the mountain.
The 12 football players and coach were exploring the cave after a group bike ride and soon disappeared in the Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai on June 23. Divers discovered the group huddled on a narrow rock shelf deep within the flooded cave system on July 2nd, after nine days with no food or water.
The rescue operation has left one retired Thai Navy SEAL dead, Sgt. Major Saman Gunan. He lost consciousness making his way back towards the entrance of a cave. Sgt. Major Gunan was part of a hundred plus man volunteer diving effort assembled to navigate the now flooded passageways of the cave system in an effort to bring the team back to safety.
As of July 9th, 4 boys and their coach still remain in the cave. Rescue efforts are underway, but the rescuers and the rescuees could use a little help from whatever deity you might take the time to ask for a bit of favor.