With all 13 members of the Wild Boars safe and recuperating in hospital, we reflect on the incredible rescue mission that saw thousands from all edges of the globe unite.
What began as an innocent post-game adventure, became an international rescue effort where cave diving specialists, military, government authorities and civilians came together and volunteered their time, services and in one devastating case, a life, to save the Wild Boars soccer team.
When 12 boys and one 25-year-old coach walked into Thailand’s Tham Luang cave, they were completely unaware their entrance would soon be swept away by flash floods. Against the odds, they re-emerged 17 days later due to the tireless, co-operative effort from around 10,000 people in what many are heralding a miracle.
The world watched on in a mixture of horror, hope and anticipation as the team’s retrieval was considered almost impossible and those with the specialist skill of cave diving dropped everything to assist. While there were competent Thai navy seals on hand, the job was too complex for them alone and the global community responded to their international call for assistance whole-heartedly, with more than 100 cave diving specialists arriving from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Finland, Israel, Sweden and the US.
Requiring both international expertise and numbers plus local knowledge, a mud map of the cave was drawn up and the rescue mission was planned meticulously for almost a week with the power of human collectivism in full force. Meanwhile, others worked together to pump one billion litres of water out of the cave until finally, the conditions were viable enough to enter the cave safely. Two heroic British divers wound their way through the cave and eventually found the 5m by 5m space where the soccer team had sought refuge. Finding them was the first miracle, but doubt remained as to whether they could extract them alive.
In what might be the most extraordinary example of the power of &, almost 150 people were strung across the course of the cave to ensure the soccer team made it to safety. The almost-impossible retrieval saw 18 divers proceed into the murky waters before stretchering the boys, fitted with wetsuits and oxygen face masks, out in two groups of four and a final group of five. They weaved through terrifying obstacles such as underwater sections including a “nightmarish” T-junction and narrow gaps as small as 38-centimetres wide for 1.7-kilometres before being met by a 120-person strong human chain. The boys were then passed one by one by this human chain before the first group of four were delivered safely and two days later, the final group of boys and their coach were freed from their underground prison.
The support for the rescue mission didn’t end at emergency services with thousands gathering to support the specialists with food, rain jackets and blankets. One Thai volunteer drove 12-hours across the country with three giant pumps to extract the unrelenting water, while three local farming women cooked thousands of meals over the two week ordeal. People came from near and far with the sole mission to see these boys back into their families’ arms.
The rescue command chief Narongsak Osaththankorn told journalists the Tham Luang rescue mission was a “symbol or unity among mankind… help poured in, and a mission that many people thought was impossible became possible.”
The power of &, where people come together to achieve something miraculous, was beautifully evident in this tale of global unity. As the boys are now safely home with their families, we salute all those involved for their bravery and remember retired Thai navy seal Saman Kunan who heroically lost his life while playing a crucial role in the rescue.
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