In 2018 in Northern Thailand, 12 boys and their football coach from the Wild Boar football team headed to the Tham Luang caves.
Nothing unusual about that, nothing untoward and it was a few weeks before the monsoon season, which regularly floods the caves, so they’re still open, so the boys, aged 11 – 16, go in.
But, as the world will remember, the boys did not make it out that day, or for many days later. The Rescue is the story of those 18-days as rescuers attempt to get everyone out alive.
On day two the Thai Navy Seals enter the cave, but they are unprepared. Cave diving is different from normal diving and the Seals don’t have the equipment, nor the experience. There is someone who does though.
Vern Unsworth, also known as the “crazy foreign caver” is, by day, a financial consultant but his hobby is cave diving and he has spent a lot of time mapping this cave, which is some 10 kilometres in length.
To have any chance, Vern knows he needs the best cave divers and calls upon Rick Stanton, a former firefighter, and John Volanthen, an IT consultant. That’s their day jobs though, by night Rick dives in caves with homemade harnesses and a homemade side-mount rebreather, something John thinks is crazy.
It wasn’t until day five that Rick and John arrive at the cave but the Seals don’t want them to go in, but this is roundly ignored and the duo go in. On their first dive they find four ground workers who had fallen asleep whilst fitting pumps in the cave.
When the water had flooded the cave again, these workers had become trapped. Rick and John give them the spare breathers they have and take them out, which they describe as ‘underwater wrestling’.
When you see some of the shots that these cave divers do, ‘for fun’, it won’t come as much surprise to learn that the men panicked and fought all the way out. Based on this, even if they find the children, how on earth are they going to get them out?
The water is continuing to rise, by some six inches per hour by some counts. The American military arrive from Japan. They have a little more experience, but not that much.
As they’re about to go back in they meet Belgian Ben Reymenants who says it’s impossible to go any further than anyone has already been. The men agree but then, what to do?
They stop going in, though the Seals continue and, eventually, the ground workers manage to divert a lot of the water coming in and so the divers can restart and, finally, they find them.
Amazingly they are all alive, smiling even, spirits are high, considering. The men take some footage on a camera which, when they come out, is shown all over the world and now the Thai Navy steps back in to take over the rescue.
They are carrying tons of equipment in, breathers and suits, but they’re inexperienced and four Seals wind-up trapped with the boys as they run out of oxygen.
When one of the volunteering Seals dies whilst carrying equipment, the Seals pull the plug, they won’t go in anymore, there has to be another way to get the boys out.
From where the boys are it is 2.5 hours of cave diving through water with low to zero visibility, it’s cold and there are some areas that are so tight only one person can get through at a time.
Rick thinks the only way to get the boys out is to sedate them and he texts his friend, a doctor and cave diver, in Australia who immediately thinks it’s an awful idea. So much can go wrong, but they’re running out of time, and options.
The Americans ask who the men would need to get the boys out of the cave, who are the best? They bring Chris Jewell, Jason Mallison, Josh Bratchley, Jim Warny and Connor Roe and Richard Harris and Craig Challen.
They’re all ready, but the Thai authorities aren’t convinced this is a good idea and it takes lots and lots of meetings before they finally allow the team to start. It’s day 16 before they can start.
The men go in, taking their place at various parts of the cave, with some 200 people at the entrance waiting to carry the boys out when they get there. Richard has also had to teach the divers how to administer anaesthetic, because it will wear off prior to the boys getting out.
Richard has to take the first boy along the first stretch and says it feels like euthanasia; rendering a boy unconscious, tying their hands behind their back and then submerging them in water.
But do it they do, day after day, taking four people out a time, five on the final day as the rains arrive. In fact, within weeks of the rescue the whole caves, even the nearest village, flooded and it was eight months before the caves were accessible again.
The Rescue is a mixture of interviews with the cave divers, including some background on them, why they do what they do, of which I’m still non the wiser! It’s not for me, some of the footage of them crawling through tiny areas is worse than any horror movie!
The Rescue is a heart warming documentary told in a very factual way. It doesn’t bother with any of the nonsense that occurred, such as a certain Elon Musk getting involved, instead concentrating on the main events as they happened, and it’s all the better for it.
3rd December 2021
THE QUICK SELL
A chronicle of the enthralling, against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018: the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand.