July 2, 2024 | Sarah Ng

Surviving Two Weeks Trapped In Thailand’s Cave System


The Survival Story That Captivated The World

There have been many survival stories throughout history, but the Thailand cave rescue of an entire soccer team captivated the entire world in an unprecedented way.

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A Doomed Birthday

It’s unsettling to think that such a horrifying situation began on what should have been a celebratory note.

On June 23, 2018, 17-year-old Peerapat Sompiangjai’s family prepared a special birthday party for him, including a SpongeBob Squarepants cake. But tragically, he never returned home that night to enjoy it.

Screenshot of kids driving bikes - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Wild Boars

On that fateful day, Sompiangjai had soccer practice with his team—the Wild Boars. Afterward, the team and assistant coach journeyed to Tham Luang cave.

MooPa Academy Team football 12 boys 1 coach trapped in a cave in Tham Luang2p2play, Shutterstock

Just Another Normal Day

This was one of their preferred places to hang out… but little did they know, it would soon become the setting of their worst nightmare.

Screenshot of kids bikes at cave entrance - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Entered The Cave

After arriving at the opening of Tham Luang, the boys and their coach, Ekkapol "Ake" Chantawong, ditched their bikes and belongings—and set out into the dark cave.

Inside in Tham Luang Nang Non cave network in northern, Mae SaiJig Evil, Shutterstock

They'd Been There Before

This adventure wasn’t at all out of the ordinary for the team. They’d been here before. On previous occasions, they’d even ventured as deep as eight kilometers.

The entrance of the Tham Luang caveamnat30, Shutterstock

Initiation Rites

Tham Luang was the location of the team’s initiation rites. It had become one of their beloved traditions to scratch the names of new teammates into the cave’s walls.

Eexplorers inside Tham Sai Thong cavePeerapat Lekkla, Shutterstock

They Had Torches

On that particular Saturday, it was business as usual. The boys had their torches and planned to explore for an hour. However, it would be two weeks before anyone saw those boys again.

Screenshot of torch - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

A Daunting Cave System

You see, Tham Luang’s cave system stretches for 10 kilometers beneath the mountain range Doi Nang Non, which borders Myanmar. In Thailand, it is the fourth largest cave system.

Khao Luang Cave, the famous attractions in Phetchaburi Thailand. - 2024joojoob27, Shutterstock

The Sleeping Lady

The cave’s complete name is Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non. Shaped like a woman lying down, the name means, "the great cave and water source of the sleeping lady mountain.”

Stair path down to Tham Khao LuangMercedess, Shutterstock

A Dangerous Reputation

Even before the soccer team ventured into Tham Luang’s depths, there had been other reports of visitors going missing. But that wasn’t all.

Excavator inside the cave (Tham Luang Cave)Chaikom, Shutterstock

Monsoon Season

During July, the cave becomes especially perilous thanks to the beginning of monsoon season. The extreme rain causes floods as extreme as 16 feet, meaning visitors should only go exploring during specific months (November to April).

But remember, it was June, and therefore, it was already a risky time to be entering the caves—something the locals were aware of. 

Screenshot of Tham Luang cave entrance - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Their Parents Began To Worry

When the Wild Boars didn’t come home, a dark feeling of worry descended over their parents. The boys had divulged their plans to explore Tham Luang in a group chat, and so the anxious parents decided to investigate.

But tragically, when they arrived, their worst fears were confirmed.

Screenshot of people in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Were Nowhere To Be Found

The parents of the Wild Boars arrived at the mouth of Tham Luang only to find their children’s bags and bikes. The boys were nowhere to be found.

They now had an emergency on their hands. 

Screenshot of people in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

There Was Too Much Rain

Meanwhile, the Wild Boars faced terrifying conditions inside the cave. You see, their enemy was the rain. There had been several rainy days, and unfortunately, there was only one place all the water on the mountain could run toward—the cave system.

Screenshot of rain outside Tham Luang cave entrance - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Surprised By A Flash Flood

According to one account, a dangerous situation blindsided the boys: a sudden flash flood. To survive, they’d had to move further into the depths of Tham Luang.

Screenshot of running water in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Trapped In The Dark

To their horror, the Wild Boars were now trapped inside the caves. Just four kilometers from the mouth of the cave, they found refuge on a tiny shelf of rock.

Screenshot of scared kids in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Way Home Was Under Water

This shelf of rock was just beyond Pattaya Beach—a part of the caves that, on a good day, would have been completely safe and dry. Now, however, it was submerged in water.

Screenshot of running water in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Lost And Terrified

Swathed in darkness, and battling the cold and damp, it would have been easy for the terrified team to succumb to hopelessness. Instead, this is where their incredible survival story truly began.

Screenshot of scared kids in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Staying Alive

Instead of giving in to panic, the team was incredibly resourceful and got to work. Using rocks, the boys chipped away at the ledge, scraping out a space where they could group for warmth.

In such a stressful situation, it was the team’s leader, Coach Ake, who brought some of his expertise to the table.

Screenshot of man in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Meditated

Coach Ake had once been a monk and knew how to quiet the mind using meditation. By sharing key techniques with his team, he made sure that the boys conserved their air and energy. 

They all remained as still and calm as possible.

Screenshot of scared kids in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Luck Was On Their Side

The Wild Boars were much luckier than they realized. Though they didn’t have any food, they did have an incredible water source thanks to the moisture on the cave walls. 

Screenshot of dark inside of the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Had Enough Air

Even their air supply was in pretty good shape thanks to the cracks in the cave and the penetrable nature of the limestone. For the moment, they still had time. 

The only thing they could truly pray for was a rescue team.

Screenshot of dark inside of the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Rescue Mission Begins

Unbeknownst to the stranded team, there was already a rescue plan underway. The local authorities had contacted extra help, including the national police and Thai Navy Seals. There were also volunteers.

Screenshot of army people in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Didn't Know If They Were Still Alive

At first, investigators had no clue whether the boys had perished or not. However, that wasn’t the only daunting question on their minds: How in the world were they going to navigate the dangerous caves?

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Divers Were Inexperienced

The rescue mission was off to a rough start. Though there were Navy divers available, the majority of them were sadly inexperienced when it came to cave diving. 

This, however, was only one of the many problems.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Water Kept Rising

At the same time, the terrible weather had not improved. The cave was still in the process of flooding, meaning that, as time passed, sections of it became inaccessible to rescuers.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Tried To Pump The Water Out

Even engineers stepped in, hoping to use pumps to drain the water out of the caves—but these initial attempts ultimately failed.

Screenshot of rescue people pumping water from the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Drilled Into The Mountainside

Additionally, the rescue team even tried to drill holes into the side of the mountain in an attempt to gain access to the caves. They also dispatched drones equipped with thermal sensors.

Their options were wearing thin.

Screenshot of tools in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Teammate On The Outside

The rescuers caught wind of an essential tidbit of information when the Thai Navy Seals discovered one of the Wild Boars who had not gone to the cave that day.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Finding A Lead

The boy shared one of the destinations in the caves the team had frequented in the past: Pattaya Beach. Finally, the rescue team had something to go on.

Pattaya beach, Chon Buri, Thailand.Tom Jutte, Flickr

Their Supporters Prayed For Them

As the rescuers did everything they could to find the Wild Boars, their family and supporters congregated at the cave's opening.

Screenshot of people pray in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

She Brought Offerings To The Cave

Everyone was praying and hoping that the soccer team would make it out alive. Coach Ake’s godmother, Tum Kantawong, traveled to the caves every day with special offerings: candles, incense, and sweet fruits.

She explained, "It was to show respect to the spirit that protects the cave. I asked her to protect the 13 kids.”

Screenshot of woman in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

People Kept Coming

As time slowly dragged on, the group waiting anxiously by the mouth of the cave grew. The boys’ teachers even came out, with one administrator sharing, "We wanted to be the first to welcome the boys when they came out.”

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Their Peers Sang To Them

The Wild Boars' classmates were just as worried about them as the adults in their lives. They prayed together and gathered together to sing bolstering tunes into the opening of the cave. 

But this show of support was just the beginning.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Community Rallied Together

Soon, the whole community had come together to do everything they could for the affected families. They generously made monetary and food donations.

It wasn’t long before the entire country had tuned into this rescue mission.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Social Media Spread Awareness

Social media helped spread awareness for the missing Wild Boars. This caused people from around Thailand to jump on planes to join the search efforts. 

Then the entire world took notice.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

People From Around The World Flew In

On June 28, the very first rescuers from outside of Thailand touched down. These included US Air Force rescue specialists, as well as cave divers from several countries.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Rescuers Put Themselves At Risk

With combined efforts and experienced divers, the rescue team members were prepared to put their own lives on the line. They were up against heavy currents and overwhelming flooding—but their hard work was about to pay off.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Finding "Chamber Three"

On July 1, rescuers made a key discovery: a cavern that became known as “chamber three.” For divers, this would be an essential base as they searched the cave.

Screenshot of people in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Dove For Days

For many days, two divers—John Volanthen and Rick Stanton—had been searching in vain. But on July 2, their luck suddenly changed.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Searching For Air Pockets

Volanthen and Stanton managed to find Pattaya Beach. The team wasn’t there, but they were close. As per rescue standards, any time they stumbled across an air pocket, the divers would rise to the surface, smell the air, and shout.

Just a couple hundred meters from the beach, they came across a very important air pocket.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Smelled Them

Volanthen later explained, “We smelt the children before we saw or heard them.” Investigating the air pocket led them straight to their goal: They’d found the missing soccer team, crouched on the rock shelf.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Captured Them On Camera

John Volanthen and Rick Stanton couldn't believe their eyes when they found the entire soccer team still alive. The momentous occasion was actually captured on camera.

Screenshot of scared kids in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

All Thirteen Boys Survived

The footage of the discovery is unbelievable. Volanthen asks the team, "How many of you?" The response? "Thirteen!" All the boys had survived.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Tried To Keep The Hope Alive

For a short time, the divers stayed with the boys in an attempt to lift their weary spirits. But they knew they had to get back and share the happy news. They also needed to organize a way to get the team safely out of this predicament.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The World Waited With Bated Breath

After leaving the stranded Wild Boars with light and the promise of sustenance, Volanthen and Stanton made their way out of the cave. The footage they captured in the cave blew up online. The entire world was watching, waiting, and praying.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Seemed Unharmed

Of course, when the distraught parents found out that all the children had made it through, they were overcome with joy. The footage showed that they all seemed to be healthy, though rather thin.Screenshot of scared kids in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Asked For Real Food

After the boys were found, it wasn't long before a military medic and Navy Seal divers showed up to treat them and stay by their sides. With hope on the horizon, the boys began asking for food—most notably, a rice and meat dish known as pad krapao.

Screenshot of plastic spoon in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Had A Liquid Diet

Unfortunately for the boys, there would be no solid food on the menu. Doctors prescribed them a diet of mineral water with vitamins, and liquid food with medicine in it.

Screenshot of people in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Some Of The Boys Couldn't Swim

For the rescuers, they had a new challenge to tackle. How were they going to transport the 13 boys through the flooded caves? After all, some of them couldn't even swim, and even the divers themselves found the task to be an arduous one.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Journalists From Around The World Flew In

The story of the lost children in the caves turned Mae Sai into a hotbed for journalists. Everyone wanted to stay updated on the rescue mission.

Screenshot of Journalist outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Community Kept Things Moving Smoothly

Overall, the community felt encouraged by the successful search results. When it came to supporting the rescue mission, everyone got involved. There were food stalls, cleaners, laundromat services, and drivers. 

But a tragic accident was about to cast a shadow over the entire mission.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

A Diver Ran Out Of Air

Saman Gunan, a Navy Seal diver, was an eager volunteer rescuer. Sadly, on July 6, Gunan was in the middle of bringing air tanks to the team when disaster struck: He ran out of air.

Screenshot of people in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

It Was Too Late

Though one of Gunan's fellow divers managed to get him out of the water and attempted to resuscitate him, it was already too late. The 38-year-old Navy Seal passed away.

His grieving wife Waleeporn Gunan shared, "Saman once said we never know when we're going to die… so we need to cherish every day."

Screenshot of rescue navy seal who lost his live in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Their Chances Seemed Slim

The loss of Gunan made the danger of the caves even more daunting. After all, if a strong and experienced Navy Seal couldn't survive, what chances did young boys have? 

But this wasn't the only concern rescuers had.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Their Oxygen Levels Dropped

To make matters worse, the chamber where the boys were had decreasing oxygen levels. Though it usually sat at 21 percent, it had dropped to 15 percent.

When it came to actually getting the boys out of the cave, rescuers came up with three potential plans.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Plan #1

They could play the long game—the very long game. This involved using a pump to empty water from the cave, while, at the same time, waiting for the flood water to go down on its own. The projected wait time? As long as four months.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Plan #2

The rescuers could try drilling a separate route through the cave.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Plan #3

The rescuers could train the boys how to dive in the cave. But considering all the ways this could go horrifically wrong, this plan would only be used if the others weren't feasible.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Writing Letters

On July 6, the boys finally had access to a much-needed oxygen supply. They also began sending heart-wrenching messages to their parents.

Screenshot of drawings inside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Comforted Their Parents

The boys wrote letters of encouragement and love to their parents, imploring them not to worry. One boy even had a wicked sense of humor, writing, "Teacher, please don't give us too much homework!"

However, Coach Ake's letter looked much different than the ones written by the boys.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Coach Apologized

Coach Ake wrote, "I'm really sorry to the parents." It seemed that he felt somewhat responsible for the nightmare they were all living. The parents' response to him, however, was quite moving.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Parents Responded With Gratitude

The parents didn't have a bad word to spare for Coach Ake. In fact, one relative even wrote, "Coach Ake, I really thank you for taking care of all the kids, and keeping them safe." 

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Time To Go

By July 7, the boys had been stranded for two weeks. It was also the day they had all been waiting for. Thai authorities surprised everyone with an announcement: The boys were going to be extracted immediately.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Only Had Days Left

The reason for this sudden course of action had everything to do with the rain. The weather had gotten better and the rain had let up. The rescuers were also racing against time, as, according to the locals, they expected the floods to completely fill the cave system by July 10.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

A Journey In Two Phases

The mission was a stressful undertaking and there were almost 100 divers taking part. There were two phases of this dangerous journey.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The First Phase

The first part of the extraction involved moving the boys from where they were on the rock shelf to chamber three. They would all be given full-face air masks. Then, attached to a diver, each boy would be guided out, accompanied by a second diver as support.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Boys Were Sedated

Obviously, it was a petrifying situation for everyone involved, especially the children. To keep the team calm, rescuers gave them doses of anti-anxiety medication. Some sources claim that the boys were so medicated, they were barely conscious.

Screenshot of syringe - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Precious Cargo

According to one rescue diver, they maneuvered each boy like "a shopping bag." The boys had handles on their backs and cylinders on their front, with their faces angled downward.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Second Phase

The second part of the journey began after arriving at chamber three. It was time for stretchers. Each boy would be transported on one by as many as five rescuers.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Had To Work Together

There were some tricky aspects to navigating the caves. During one section, rescuers dragged the stretcher on a raft. Throughout another, they had to use a pulley system to lift every boy up a sharp incline. And that wasn't all.

For one rocky stretch, rescuers arranged themselves in a line, handing the boys along.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Didn't Rescue Them All At Once

Slowly but surely, every boy made the arduous and terrifying journey back through the caves toward salvation. In order to fill the air tanks, the rescuers had to move the boys in separate groups. But every second counted.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Made It Out Alive

Eventually, the entire team, as well as the coach, escaped the caves with the help of countless rescuers. After receiving some oxygen, they were all taken to the hospital. But the horror wasn't over yet.

Screenshot of army people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The Water Began To Rise

Though the boys had miraculously survived, there were still some rescuers who still needed to escape. Unfortunately, by this time (July 10), the water levels had increased at a shocking pace. In just one hour, the water rose 30 centimeters.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Just In The Nick Of Time

On the heels of the final boy's rescue, the Navy Seal divers and medic, as well as another diving expert named Richard Harris, exited the caves. Their timing couldn't have been better, as a pump malfunctioned soon after.

Screenshot of rescue divers in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

The World Rejoiced

In the wake of the mission's resounding success, the entire world celebrated. On July 11, the press got their hands on a clip of the recovering boys in the hospital. They seemed to be glowing with positivity—a few of them even holding up victory signs.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Quarantined

The Wild Boars' parents still had some waiting ahead of them. They could only wave at them from behind a window because the boys had to be quarantined in case of infection. 

They also had to protect their eyes as they'd been in the dark for so long.

Screenshot of scared kids in the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

They Were In Good Shape

After being looked over by doctors, the boys were given a decent bill of health, except for a few minor eye and lung infections. Some of them had even begun eating solid foods again.

Screenshot of rescued kid in hospital - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Shocked Heroes

Meanwhile, the rescuers had to process their stunning acts of heroism. Rear Adm Arpakorn Yuukongkaew, the leader of the Thai Navy Seals, shared, "We didn't think the mission would be this successful."

Screenshot of army people in the office having meeting - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

A Happy Ending

The last two weeks had been a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from panic to grief to elation. Everyone had assumed the boys had died after they went missing, and yet they had all emerged alive.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019

Working For The Common Good

The Tham Luang cave rescue was a testament to humanity's ability to come together for good. Thanks to the help of rescuers from around the world, 12 boys and their coach lived to tell their shocking tale of survival.

Screenshot of people outside the cave - from Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019Mallinson Sadler Productions, Thai Cave Rescue (Drain the Oceans) 2019


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