10 Facts About the Rescue Operation That Finally Free the 12 Boys & Coach

Image: Migren art / Shutterstock.com

In the last few days, people were glued to the TV with bated breaths as they watched the ultimate unfolding of an event that has captured the world’s attention.

No, I ain’t talking about the World Cup, or how France has advanced to the Finals. I’m talking about another group of soccer players, the twelve boys AKA the Wild Boars, who’re stuck in a cave together with their assistant coach.

As of yesterday (11 July 2018) evening, everyone was finally freed from the cave and this marked the end of a chapter that has captivated so many and inspired many others to do good.

Here are ten facts about this “impossible” and “dangerous” operation that would go down in history books as one of the most inspirational stories ever (and a high possibility that you’ll be seeing this operation unfold in cinemas in the near future, too).

First thing first: What Happened?

If you’ve just landed on earth from Mars, here’s a brief summary of what happened: on 23 June 2018, twelve boys between the age of 11 to 17, all members of a junior football team, went to explore the Tham Luang cave, also known as the Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady, together with their assistant coach.

Heavy rain occurred shortly after they entered the cave, partially flooding it immediately. After being reported as missing a few hours later, a massive search operation was conducted, comprising 1,000 people from all over the world, including expert divers, volunteers, technical and medical teams.

On 2 July 2018, about nine days later, two British divers found them and immediately provided them with medical supplies and rations. However, the challenge is getting them out of the cave.

The challenges

Finding the boys and the coach alive is a large relief but it’s not the end of the ordeal: the challenge is getting them out. The journey into their location is filled with obstacles like rushing, muddy waters, extremely dark corners, openings the size of a hula hoop and the complete darkness. Even a seasoned diver might find it challenging; in addition, a one-way journey takes about five to six hours even for seasoned divers.

The other challenge is mental stability: it’s not easy to stay calm when you’re faced with darkness while submerged in rushing water, and still have to move against it without knowing whether there’s a stone right in front of you. Oxygen level in the cave is also constantly running low, with it dropping to 15% by 8 July (humans need 19.5% to 23.5% to function normally).

The third, and most pressing, challenge is the rain: with more rain, the cave would be flooded to a higher level. You might be thinking: why not just seal the hole that water is draining in? Well, it’s not that simple: the cave itself is a “huge water repository”, so water is coming in from many sources.

Elon Musk Did a Tony Stark

In a typical Elon Musk style, the business magnate announced on Twitter that he would be going down to the cave, and posting several Tweets on suggestions and how he could help.

He made good his promise as he went to Thailand, together with ten engineers from his companies,  with mini submarines that could supposedly hold a boy in it. His plan was to let the divers to move the mini-subs, with the boys inside, out of the cave safely.

The head of the search operation did not use that, saying, “I assure you that the equipment he brought to help us is not practical for our mission…Even though the equipment has state of the art technology, it does not fit our mission in the cave.”

Musk, however, left the mini-subs there as they would be useful.

Decision to Conduct Rescue Operation Given the Green Light

One of the solutions is to wait for the dry season so that the water would all be gone, leaving the survivors in the cave for at least four months, but that proved to even more dangerous: the rain is unpredictable and the oxygen level is decreasing.

Teaching the boys how to dive out of the cave, guided by the expert divers, is one solution, but given that even an expert diver has passed away tragically, it highlighted the risks involved.

However, the team decided to go ahead with the latter, and put 8 July as the D-day: the day that the divers would go in and extract the boys.

They wouldn’t be coming out together; the plan is to split the operation into three days, in groups of 4-4-5.

The boys, by then, have been trained to dive, despite some of them not knowing how to swim. As one of the dangers is panic, the boys were given anti-anxiety medication to “make them not too nervous and panic”.

Day 1: 8 July 2018

On Sunday, 19 divers went into the cave in the morning. By 5:40 p.m. local time, the first boy was seen coming out of the cave, leading to cheers all over the world. Soon after, three more boys exited the cave.

The team had expected them to come out later, but somehow they shocked the world by exiting about four hours earlier.

The team then prepared for the next phase by replenishing the oxygen in the cave.

Day 2: 9 July 2018

The next day, a miracle happened again as the projected time of operation was 11 hours, but the four boys were seen exiting the cave 9 hours after the divers went in.

The operation might have gone smoother as the rescue divers, who also took part in the previous day’s operation, are now more familiar with the mission.

However, it wasn’t over yet: impending rain could impair the next phase.

Once the boys were out, the team set out to prepare for the final phase, replenishing oxygen again as the world watched with bated breaths.

Day 3: 10 July 2018

Yesterday evening, everyone was out.

Surprisingly, this time, the first boy was brought out at 3:00 p.m. In other words, everything went a lot smoother than usual.

The rescue commander declared the mission “accomplished”, and praised the team, saying that they had “done what others thought was impossible”.

It wasn’t over until everyone was out

Of course, it won’t be a 100% success until everyone, including the rescue divers, are out.

Three Thai Navy SEALS divers and a doctor were still in the cave when the boys and coach were out. A while later, the Thai NavySEAL Facebook Page posted this and it was official: everyone was safely out.

Passing and Tribute to a Hero

Despite the inspiring story, there’s a tragic to this entire chapter.

Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old former member of the Thai Navy Seal, was delivering oxygen tanks in the cave last Friday (6 July) morning at about 2:00 a.m. when he died while on his way out of the cave. The experienced diver has volunteered for the mission, and has passed away due to the lack of oxygen.

Saman Kunan has left the Navy to work in an airport, and had immediately joined as a volunteer upon hearing the news about the missing football team.

Upon the success of the mission, he was called the “Tham Luang Hero” by the commander of the rescue operations.

A Hollywood movie would be in the works

Don’t be surprised if what you see on the news recently would be in cinemas soon.

Hollywood producers were seen in the area, with one firm even seeing it as “a major Hollywood film with A-list stars”. These producers were spotted interviewing people and getting exclusive rights to their stories.

Of course this is a sensitive time to do this, but one of them has this to say: “There’s going to be other production companies coming in so we have to act pretty quickly.”

Well, at least there’s going to be a happy ending.

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