[Updated] Divers rescue all 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand
Last updated: July 10, 2018 at 16:33 pm
 On July 2, British cave divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen located all 12 members of a youth football team and their coach trapped inside a flooded cave system in Thailand. The experienced cave rescue divers, who were assisted by a third British diver, Robert Harper, were requested by Thai authorities based on their impressive track record of complex cave rescues. The rescue operation led by the Thai military, including Thai Navy SEAL divers, began on June 23. After a nine-day search, which made headline news across the world, the members of the missing football team were found at last, together, and alive.
The amazing feat required a colossal effort. Equipped with rebreathers and backed by Thai Navy SEALs, Stanton and Volanthen ventured approximately 4 km (2.48 mi.) into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system, and nearly 1,000 m (3,281 ft) beneath ground level, where they located the boys in a dry chamber. The same monsoon floodwater that trapped the football team after they had entered the cave, and which forced them to move ever deeper into the cave system, also made for extreme diving conditions in bad visibility and difficult currents.
Because the cave system would likely remain flooded for several weeks with the intensifying monsoon rains, authorities were originally left with two options: (1) teach the trapped footballers to scuba dive in extremely challenging conditions, or (2) leave them in the cave for up to four months when receding water levels should allow them to walk out. When it was discovered that the cave might flood completely, the decision was taken to conduct the rescue using scuba. The cave system was partially drained using powerful pumps over a period of several days in an attempt to reduce the distance that would have to be traveled underwater. The extrication was ordered after the boys had been sufficiently prepared and when a storm system threatened to dangerously increase water levels inside the cave system.
July 4: Two more members of the Cave Diving Group, Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel, depart for Thailand to assist with the rescue operation.
July 5: A former Thai Navy SEAL dies after delivering supplies to the trapped group. The diver reportedly lost consciousness while exiting the cave system.
July 5: A video posted on Facebook that purportedly shows the diving conditions at the rescue location goes viral. However, the video was actually filmed in Castle Rock Cave, in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. One of the sections of Tham Luang Nang Non that must be traversed nonetheless contains a partly submerged 38-cm (15 in.) choke point where divers cannot pass while wearing a tank. They reportedly must climb an upward slope where they emerge out of the water before descending back into the water on the other side. It is not clear if the narrowest portion of the choke point is submerged, or not.
[Posted by Howard Roscoe on Thursday, 5 July 2018 (Deleted on July 9.) “These are the conditions that the Derbyshire Rescuers has [sic] to contend with during their rescue operation of the 12 Thais in the Chiang Rai Caverns.”]
NOTE: A segment of the video below (beginning at 04:00) that went viral on Facebook and which purportedly showed the diving conditions at the rescue site, was actually filmed in Wisconsin, not Thailand.
July 8: Rescue operation on scuba begins and at least four boys are escorted out of the cave and taken to hospital. A rescue doctor and three Thai Navy SEALs stay with the group.
July 8: Elon Musk announces that a metallic pod, which he refers to as a kid-size submarine, is on route to Thailand after testing in a Los Angeles swimming pool. Musk states that the submersible rescue pod, which is a modified space rocket oxygen transfer tube, is light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps, and extremely robust. The device is equipped with oxygen ports and a nose cone to protect it from impacts with rocks.
July 9: Four more boys are extricated from the cave, and the rescue team readies to escort the remaining four boys and their coach on July 10. rescue doctor and three Navy Seals
July 10: The remaining four boys and their coach are rescued from the flooded cave.
“This amazing rescue will go down in history as a time when the world held its breath and hoped for a miracle which came in the form of brave and selfless cave divers and their support teams from Thailand and beyond.” — The Diving Almanac
This ongoing story will be updated as new information becomes available.
Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were part of the dive team that set the world record the longest cave penetration dive (with DPV).
Royal Thai Navy
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Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.