Cave rescues are not usually successful, but against all odds HOOYAH!!! was the cry from the Thai Navy SEAL which reverberated around the world.
The rescue of the Thai Wild Boars soccer team is a triumph of bravery, expertise and love.
I won’t argue with love, but I’d say compassion. Everyone kept their heads, no egos got in the way but the rescuers focussed what could be done, and what needed to be done in the circumstances. Feeling never got the better of rationality, blurring the judgement and enervating the rescuers.
I’d give a lot of credit to Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation, who had just stepped down as governor of Chiang Rai but stayed on to do the job. His organisational skill must have been superb.
This image shows from The Guardian the technique finally used to get the boys and the coach through the flooded sections:
Each boy wore a full-face scuba mask with wetsuit, boots and helmet.
Two navy divers accompanied each boy, with the lead diver carrying the boy’s oxygen.
The divers guided the boys using a 8 mm rope fixed to the cave wall.
It’s just that this NY Times account, which I think more plausible, says that each boy was wrapped in a plastic cocoon:
That concurs with what we saw on television.
I thought of the water being still, but apparently in parts it almost had the force of a waterfall.
The article says that 10,000 people participated including 2000 soldiers and representatives from 100 government agencies. I understand 20 tonnes of stuff was taken into the caves by hand.
ABC 24 told us that there were about 750 media present when they arrived, which then roughly doubled. Volunteers prepared food. Not sure what they did for shelter. Certainly the world’s media followed every step along the way, but were necessarily held at arm’s length.
Then there was the young coach, Ekkapol “Ek” Chantawong, who kept the boys calm, sitting on a wet bank in the dark for nine days, with torches, licking moisture running down the rock wall when thirsty. He’s from Myannmar across the border, and trained as a monk for some time. Apparently he had taught the boys meditation techniques to relax them before the game.
The head of the monastery where the coach of the Wild Boars soccer team trained as a monk says he believes the players would surely have died if it was not for Ekkapol “Ek” Chantawong.
Prayuth Jetiyanukarn, the abbot of the Prathat Doi Wao temple on the Thai-Myanmar border, credits the 25-year-old with keeping the 12 boys calm for nine days using his training as a novice monk.
Abbot Prayuth said he believed Mr Chantawong taught the boys techniques for staying calm that helped them survive for nine days without food, cramped on a dark, muddy ledge, unsure if, or when, anyone would save them.
A question has been raised as to whether Ek should be charged with negligence. There is also a suggestion he be granted Thai citizenship, which seems more likely from how he is regarded by those who know and trust him.
The young coach effectively lives at the temple, not far from the cave, when he is not staying with his grandmother across the border.
He mostly works as a cleaner but previously trained as a monk and still helps people to meditate so they can focus on what is important in life.
Abbot Prayuth described Mr Chantawong as a man with a strong sense of responsibility, who spends much of his life doing and giving to others.
He does not drink, smoke or go to karaoke bars like other young men his age.
The parents love him.
Not forgetting Saman Kunan, the retired Thai SEAL who died helping to save others. His relatives declined an autopsy, but possibilities are lack of oxygen or hypothermia.
And let’s try to ignore Elon Musk with his submarine thingie. He means well.
Apparently it is not uncommon for young people to spend some time in a monastery, just as we have the notion of ‘gap’ years.
I think there is more that we can learn about how other cultures work. Next week the Four Corners episode Out of the Dark may or may not shed some light.