Thailand cave rescue: an unrepeatable miracle of life

  On July 2, 2018, Chiang Rai, Thailand, British divers Rick Stanton and John Wallanson came out of the cave with a suit of sewage, and they brought exciting news – they walked into the cave 9 days ago All 12 underage children and their football coach in the depths are still alive.
  The media flashed and applauded, but Stanton and Worranson frowned. As the best cave diving experts, they know the difficulty of the next rescue. In Stanton’s view, trying to rescue a group of children who had never been exposed to diving alive was an almost impossible task.
  At this time, Stanton would not have imagined that, in the face of countless possibilities of failure, volunteer rescue teams from all over the world worked hard and worked closely together, and finally found what might be the only possible successful solution – 18 days after the incident, the 13 trapped All were rescued safely. Cave expert Vernon Unsworth, who participated in the rescue, said: “It is a miracle to be able to bring anyone trapped out. With this miraculous rescue, 13 is no longer an ominous number.”
  In the second half of this year, the movie “Thirteen Lives” adapted from this incident was released, reproducing this thrilling but full of human brilliance for the audience.

Documentary “Thailand Cave Rescue” stills
“Underwater Wrestling”

  On June 23, 2018, the quadrennial World Cup is in full swing. In Mae Sai Town, Chiang Rai Province, northern Thailand, a youth football team called “Wild Boars” is also training hard for their football dreams. In the afternoon, the children who had finished their practice proposed to explore the Sleeping Beauty Cave and celebrate a teammate’s birthday by the way.
  The Sleeping Beauty Cave is about 10 kilometers long and is the fourth longest cave in Thailand. The cave is humid and cool, and many locals like to go to the cave to escape the summer heat. Accompanied by an assistant coach, the 12 children walked into the cave with food and water. At this time, they didn’t know that a danger that was enough to swallow their lives was quietly approaching.
  For safety reasons, locals generally close the Sleeping Beauty Cave in July. Unfortunately, that year’s monsoon came earlier than in previous years and was more violent. A sudden rainstorm changed the fate of countless people.
  In the afternoon, the “Wild Boars” stepped into the hole, and everything seemed quite normal. Hours later, when they found the water rising, the way back was completely submerged, and they had to go deeper into the cave.
  At 9 o’clock that night, parents who couldn’t find their children began to worry. Soon after, the team’s head coach found the children’s bicycles at the entrance of the cave. At this time, the water level in the cave was rising at a speed visible to the naked eye, and the coach hurried to the relevant departments for help. At 11 o’clock that night, the local search and rescue team in Chiang Rai entered the venue, but they were quickly “dissuaded” by the flood due to lack of underwater rescue experience.

  Out of fear of the gloom beneath the water, workers will struggle desperately once they think they can surface.

  The news of 13 people missing has caught the world’s attention. Thailand immediately organized a huge search and rescue team, and the military SEAL team rushed to support, but after 4 days, the rescuers only swam as far as 1,500 meters into the cave, an area called the T-mouth, still The children were not seen.
  A foreigner known as a “cave ocean lunatic” changed that. His name is Vernon Unsworth, a caver with about 50 years of experience, and he wrote the cave maps of Thailand’s national parks. Unsworth compares Sleeping Beauty Cave to his “second home”, and perhaps no one in the world knows this dark and terrifying cave better than him. Unsworth understood that it was impossible to rescue the trapped people with the current rescue methods, so he gave his own advice.
  On June 26 of that year, a crumpled note was presented to Thailand’s interior minister. The note was of the person Unsworth suggested to the Thai government for help—“they are the best cave divers in the world. Please contact them as soon as possible.” The next night, Stanton and his party, as volunteers, traveled more than half of the world and came to the rescue scene from Coventry, England.
  After a night of rest, Stanton and Worranson took to the water for the first time. After diving for a distance, the two found four workers who were too late to evacuate in an area known as Cave 3. After many hardships, they brought the workers back to safety and won the trust of the Thai people.
  But the two were not excited at all. Due to the fear of the darkness underwater, once the workers think they can surface, they will desperately struggle, and the divers have to spend a lot of energy to calm the workers and control them. “It’s like an underwater wrestling match,” Wallanson said. “It’s like that for adults, let alone a group of kids, and even if they’re still alive, we’re not going to be able to dive and rescue them.”
A light that cuts through the darkness

  Although the movie “Thirteen Lives” focuses a lot of shots on deep caves and turbid water bottoms, due to the time limit and shooting safety, the real Sleeping Beauty Cave is far more dangerous than what is shown in the film.
  This is what Stanton said: “When people land on the moon, they can still rely on maps. But in those caves full of unknowns, no one knows where the road will lead, and no one knows where the next corner will be. What will happen.” The
  Sleeping Beauty Cave is not a maze, there is basically only one road, 800 meters from the entrance of the cave, it is a larger space, known as the No. 3 cave. In the middle and late stage of the rescue, it was opened up as a base camp, where the rescue team resided in the cave.

  Going deeper, there is a T-shaped mouth 1500 meters away from the entrance, where another underground river meets, and the water flow has become more turbulent since then; along the T-shaped mouth to the east, 2000 meters away from the entrance, is a block named It was a flat area of ​​”Pattaya Beach”, where the search and rescue team thought children would hide, but Stanton found nothing.
  At this time, the two people’s oxygen cylinders have been used for nearly 1/3. According to the principle of “use 1/3 for the outgoing journey, 1/3 for the return journey, and leave 1/3 for emergencies” in underwater search and rescue, the two Should return.
  Perhaps it was the inspiration provided by the previous rescue experience, and Volanson faintly felt that they should continue to move forward, so the two went upstream against the more turbulent current until all the guide lines they brought were used up.
  On the surface of the water, the smell of rancid smell came from the nostrils, and there was a dead silence in the cave, and a bad premonition hit the two of them.
  As if to symbolize the hope of life, suddenly, a beam of light cut through the darkness, so the scene at the beginning of the article appeared, and all 13 trapped people survived.

Stills of the movie “Thirteen Lives”

  After careful analysis, the two found that in terms of distance, the teenagers were only about 2,500 meters away from the entrance of the cave, but this distance was divided and blocked by five puddles of varying lengths. The longest puddle was about 400 meters. Equivalent to the length of about 8 standard Olympic swimming pools, the narrowest part of the bottom can barely allow one person to pass sideways.
  When the visibility is almost zero, divers not only have to deal with the current, but also have to grope in the irregular terrain under the water. Even for experienced cave divers, it takes 5 to 6 hours for a one-way trip.
  As they left, the children hugged Stanton and Worranson one by one. Turning around and coming to the corner, they looked at each other and seemed to have a thousand words, but they didn’t know where to start, “We are probably the only ones who have seen them.” On the way back, both of them were running their brains at high speed, thinking about the possibility of creating miracles.

Stills of the movie “Thirteen Lives”

  In addition to the tense rescue in the cave, the movie “Thirteen Lives” also focuses a lot on the rescue forces outside.
Unprecedented Anesthesia Program

  In addition to the tense rescue in the cave, the movie “Thirteen Lives” also focuses a lot on the rescue forces outside. Volunteers who did not enter the hole also contributed a force that cannot be ignored for this extremely difficult rescue. Although there are many difficulties, but everyone is united, the world is also moved.
  The Sleeping Beauty Cave is a typical karst landform, and water flows into the Sleeping Beauty Cave through cracks and channels in the limestone mountains. “This mountain is like a big sponge.” Unsworth said, so lowering the water level in the cave is an inevitable prerequisite for large-scale search and rescue.
  In the beginning, the rescue team used high-power pumps to drain water day and night, but even if an average of 160,000 cubic meters of water was pumped out per hour, enough to fill 64 Olympic-sized swimming pools, the water level in the cave could only drop by 1 cm per hour. .
  After seeing the news, a Thai water engineer volunteered to take on the responsibility of drainage. He led volunteers and villagers who were familiar with the local hydrological characteristics to be responsible for blocking the water flow into the cave. If there were not enough water pipes, he cut bamboo on the spot to guide the water.
  In order to drain the water faster, the stagnant water was diverted to the farmland of the surrounding villages, and the farmers’ hard work for more than half a year was in vain. Thai people who believe in Buddhism deeply believe in the Buddhist principle that “saving one life is better than building a seven-level pagoda”. The surrounding villagers have no complaints, and most of the villagers have not even offered financial compensation to the government.
  As a result, the water level in the cave has dropped significantly, and the rescue team can reach the No. 3 cave without diving, which has also become an indispensable part of the final successful rescue.
  The key to breaking the game is the arrival of a doctor. Richard Harris, an anesthesiologist in Australia, got a call from Stanton after confirming that the trapped man was alive. After the other party finished talking about the ridiculous plan, Harris almost wanted to hang up the phone, but hesitantly, he wanted to think for a night before deciding. “What if I don’t join?” Harris asked.
  ”The trapped people will all die.” Stanton’s answer finally made Harris make up his mind to go to Thailand immediately.
  According to Stanton’s vision, Harris, who is good at anesthesia and is also an experienced cave diver, prepares the appropriate dose of sedative, and then tells each diver how to inject the sedative into the trapped person, so that rescuers can transport the trapped person like a cargo. Send out the same way to avoid rescue failure due to excessive struggle.

  How to ensure the dose, how to prevent the anesthetized from drowning in their own saliva, and how to replenish the needle during the rescue… These problems need to be solved urgently. What is even more serious is that no one has ever used this method to save people before, and there is no precedent to follow. With a little carelessness, only a corpse will be “rescued”, which is why Harris is hesitant and the Thai government is hesitant to make a decision. “If you’re lucky, maybe three of these kids will survive,” Harris said.
  At the same time, preparations for the “anesthesia plan” are also progressing steadily. With the cooperation of the SEALs and diving volunteers, dozens of spare oxygen cylinders were placed in the caves that must be passed through for rescue. Harris and others also found several students from the local school who were similar in size and weight to the trapped children. , repeatedly simulated the rescue scene, and finally prepared different doses of sedatives according to the actual condition of each trapped person.
  Everything is ready, only the east wind is owed. The monsoon from the ocean finally forced the Thai government to make up its mind. The weather forecast said that continuous heavy rain will hit Chiang Rai in a few days, and it will be extremely difficult to deliver supplies to the trapped. . They believed that an “anesthesia plan” was the only option.
  On July 8, the rescue officially began. Professional cave divers set off from Cave 3 and dived for about 3 hours to reach Cave 9. With the cooperation of the Thai Navy SEALs who had stayed there, they sedated the children.
  Four divers took the trapped people one by one and returned to the No. 3 cave through the dangerous puddle. There, rescue teams from China, Australia and other countries put the trapped people on stretchers and transported them to the entrance of the cave with ropes.
  Although wading distances have been drastically reduced, diving with children is not easy. Divers need to stop every 30 minutes to check the child’s condition, refill the needle and confirm the oxygen consumption.
  During the rescue, accidents such as disorientation and nearly falling of the syringe occurred. Fortunately, there were many divers on standby in the puddles along the way, and the crisis was completely resolved. The final result was a miracle. In the three consecutive days of rescue, all 13 trapped people were rescued safely.
  A few days later, the cave was completely submerged, and it has been 8 months since it was reopened. This also means that if the rescue was not decisively carried out at the beginning, the consequences would be unimaginable.
  Today, a museum has been built outside the Sleeping Beauty Cave. The statue of Saman Kunan, a former Thai SEAL who died unexpectedly in the rescue, stands in front of the cave, as if telling tourists about the battle that relies on cooperation and solidarity without borders. A miracle rescue that makes the impossible possible.