the entire tale of Thailand ’s peculiar cave rescue

On 23 June, 12 boys went exploring in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province with their football instruct – and ended up trapped deep inside of a cave underneath a mountain. The BBC’s Helier Cheung and Tessa Wong were on the scene as a dramatic rescue bid gripped the arena.

What happened over those weeks is a outstanding story of friendship, human endurance – and the lengths some folks will go to keep somebody else’s kid.

Here our reporters inform the whole tale of the Wild Boars.

The birthday party that went wrong

It all started with a birthday.

On Saturday 23 June, Peerapat “Night” Sompiangjai turned 17 – a milestone most young people around the global would need to rejoice widespread.

Symbol copyright AFP

But Night wasn’t dashing house that day. He used to be out along with his pals, the opposite contributors of local formative years soccer workforce the Wild Boars, and their assistant train, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong.

When their soccer follow ended, they raced in the course of the rice paddies on their bicycles and up into the forested hills that lately had been included in rain.

Their destination: the Tham Luang cave, a favourite haunt for the lads, who cherished exploring the nooks and crannies of the mountain range towering over Mae Sai.

Symbol copyright Facebook/Nopparat Kanthawong Image caption A Photograph the lads published to Facebook shortly ahead of they went in the cave

Once on the mouth of Tham Luang, they stashed their bikes and bags by the cave front.

The team and their young train have been ready to rejoice Evening’s birthday. they had steadily ventured deep into Tham Luang, occasionally as far as 8km, for initiation rites the place they’d write the names of recent team individuals on a cave wall.

In high spirits, they clambered into the cave with simply their torches. they did not need a lot else – in any case, they were only making plans to be there for an hour.

They would not emerge until weeks later.

Back at Evening’s home, his circle of relatives began to concern. His birthday cake sat untouched.

Where were the Wild Boars?

Image copyright Getty Photographs

Snaking for 10km underneath the cloud-swathed mountain vary that separates Thailand and Myanmar is Tham Luang, the fourth biggest Thai cave device.

Named after a mountain shaped like a reclining girl, its complete name is Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non – “the good cave and water source of the sleeping girl mountain”. Rich in folklore, it is a well-liked vacation spot for day-trippers – and adventurous youngsters.

It has its dangers – other people have long gone missing in Tham Luang earlier than. And as soon as monsoon season starts in July, the cave goes from risk free to extraordinarily dangerous.

The cave can flood as much as 5m (16ft) throughout the wet season, and may best be entered among November and April.

“The water is moving, it is muddy and there is nearly no visibility,” local guide Joshua Morris instructed the BBC.

And once the cave floods – it is risky even for skilled divers.

Almost everyone in Mae Sai is aware of this. So whilst the parents of the Wild Boars started to fear approximately their lacking boys, they headed immediately to the cave. The boys’ plans to go to Tham Luang were discussed in a group chat on a messaging app with other friends.

They found the bikes, the baggage, and a few football sneakers out of doors. They raised the alarm.

Symbol copyright AFP

Deep in the cave, the Wild Boars discovered themselves in trouble. It were raining for the last few days, and all that water falling at the mountain had to move someplace.

That somewhere was once the Tham Luang cave machine, which used to be rapid filling up.

One preliminary account from the men shows they were stuck off-guard by way of a flash flood. They had to get out, but as a substitute had no choice but to scramble even deeper into the cave.

The Wild Boars ultimately discovered themselves marooned on a small rocky shelf approximately 4km from the cave front, previous a most often dry point known as Pattaya Seashore which by now was flooded.

Who are the Thai boys who have been trapped in a cave?

Swallowed up through an unforgiving mountain and surrounded by means of darkness, the boys and the train lost all experience of time. Worry, even perhaps terror, might definitely have crept in.

But they have been not anything however determined to survive. the crowd used rocks to dig 5m deeper into the shelf, to create a cavern the place they could huddle in combination and keep warm.

Tutor Ake, a former monk, taught the men meditation ways – to help them stay calm and use as little air as imaginable – and advised them to lie still to preserve their strength.

But a unprecedented set of cases additionally worked in their favour.

They it appears had no meals – however they did have a supply of drinkable water in the form of moisture dripping from the cave walls.

It was darkish, but they’d their torches. there has been also sufficient air for a while – since the porous limestone and cracks within the rocks supposed air may just come via.

they had the best stipulations to outlive – a minimum of for somewhat while. And most significantly, the Wild Boars had one another.

Now got here the toughest bit – hoping for rescue.

Image copyright AFP

The Wild Boars have been someplace within the twisted depths of Tham Luang – but the place exactly? And extra importantly – how may rescuers get to them?

Exploring the cave used to be a problem – such a lot of the Navy divers had little cave diving revel in. And the weather was once merciless – heavy rainfall intended the water stage was still rising, flooding chambers and cutting off rescuers from portions of the cave.

Engineers desperately tried to pump water out of the cave – but struggled, no less than to start with.

At the start, “nobody in point of fact had any idea what to do”, one volunteer stated. Officers introduced no matter what equipment they might call to mind – small water pumps, long pipes, knives and shovels – but a lot of it was once apparently unsuitable.

They even tried drilling into the mountainside, eager to to find cracks into the cave device which they could squeeze into, and used drones with thermal sensors to check out to locate the men.

Image copyright AFP

These have been the lads’ families, worriedly providing prayers for their lives. Amongst them used to be Tum Kantawong, the godmother of Instruct Ake.

Every day she went up the mountain, carrying end result, incense and candles. “It was to show recognize to the spirit that protects the cave. I asked her to protect the 13 children,” she mentioned.

Symbol copyright Getty Photographs Symbol copyright Getty Images

The First world rescuers arrived on Thursday 28 June.

Those had been US air power rescue experts, and cave divers from the uk, Belgium, Australia, Scandinavia, and lots of different international locations. A Few had volunteered, and a few had been called in via Thai government.

Others were roped in whilst it was transparent just how huge the search effort would be.

Over the following few days, they and the Thai divers could fight a relentless battle with the elements. they’d to swim towards a robust current, and were frequently compelled back through emerging floodwaters.

On Sunday 1 July – just over per week after the lads went lacking – the rescuers made some growth. They reached a big cavern that might be later dubbed “chamber three” and function a key base for the divers.

It also took place to be the birthday of Observe – one in all the “Thai cave boys”, as they have been now dubbed via the media. All, then again, were still misplaced to the world.

But no longer for lengthy. The very next day, two British divers made an out of this world discovery.

‘Thirteen? Good!’

John Volanthen and Rick Stanton have been braving Tham Luang’s narrow, murky passageways for a few days, laying out guide ropes and looking for indicators of life.

On Monday, the two males in the end reached Pattaya Seaside. However there was nothing.

They persisted onwards into the darkness. Then, a couple of hundred metres further, they discovered an air pocket.

“Wherever there is air space we floor, we shout, we smell,” John advised the BBC. it’s a usual process for such rescue operations.

“We smelt the youngsters earlier than we saw or heard them.”

Quickly, the light from John’s torch illuminated an electrifying sight – the lads emerged from the darkness, coming down the ledge in opposition to him.

the two divers spent some time with the boys – seeking to spice up their morale. Then, they left lights with the lads, and promised to return later with meals.

The unusual encounter was once recorded at the divers’ cameras – and abruptly published online. The jubilation was once instant, and around the world.

Wracked with concern for a lot of the past week, the Wild Boars’ oldsters had been ecstatic to peer their youngsters had miraculously survived. They regarded thin, but were otherwise in reasonably fine condition.

“Time isn’t on our side as a result of they’re expecting heavy rains inside three days,” diver Ben Reymenants told the BBC on the time.

“Now the actual labor comes.”

A volunteer military

The spectacular discovery of the kids deep in a mountain cave catapulted tiny Mae Sai into the world spotlight.

Overnight, journalists from all across the international descended at the district, as much more rescue volunteers from around the global poured in.

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There are a minimum of 200-THREE HUNDRED Thai and international newshounds running out of doors the #Thamluang cave ’s mouth area. aside from the clicking convention, each moderate movement has resulted in an immense media scrum.

— Thanyarat Doksone (@8td) July FOUR, 2018


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A small makeshift the town mushroomed at the rural usa park by way of the cave entrance.

Meals stalls were set up – a few staffed through participants of the Thai royal kitchen – serving free drinks, scorching noodles, chicken rice, or even ice lollies.

Hope grows on the mouth of a Thai cave

No process was once too small to do.

the country park bogs were dirty and stretched beyond capacity – so folks began cleansing them. Workers had to stand up and down the mountain – so drivers offered unfastened lifts. Rescuers were coated in dust – so a neighborhood laundromat wiped clean their clothes each evening.

Rescuers had known three imaginable options:

Coaching the boys to dive through flooded areas of the cave – a procedure so ripe with potential for crisis it was extensively regarded as a last lodge Pumping water from the cave and looking ahead to water ranges to recede naturally – but this would take up to 4 months Finding or drilling selection passages into the cave

The divers started working towards with some native boys at a swimming pool – understanding easy methods to delivery a child accurately underwater.

Other solutions, similar to an offer of a kid-sized submarine designed through tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s engineers, could be rejected as unsuitable.

The rescue workforce faced stipulations so tough that even simple tasks – putting in place air and phone strains in the cave – gave the impression unimaginable in the beginning because of the labyrinthine structure of the cave.

Finally, past due on 6 July, rescuers arrange an oxygen supply. And in the finish the lads communicated with their parents the vintage-fashioned way – by writing letters.

Image copyright Thai Navy Seals Symbol caption Letters from Night Time, Tern and Note Image copyright Thai Navy Seals

The letters, made public by means of the Thai Army Seals, had been deeply transferring.

Scrawling hearts and smiley faces on observe paper, the boys instructed their oldsters once more and again that they liked them and not to worry.

Letters of love from trapped Thai boys

They indexed the meals they desired to consume – fried chicken and red meat crackling. One even cracked a shaggy dog story: “Trainer, please do not provide us an excessive amount of homework!”

“I Am in reality sorry to the oldsters,” mentioned Coach Ake in his letter. However in preference to a tongue-lashing, he won only love.

“Train Ake, I Really thank you for taking care of the entire youngsters, and preserving them secure,” one boy’s relative wrote.


Symbol copyright AFP

Sunday 7 July. weeks had passed considering that the men went lacking.

Out of the blue, the Thai authorities announced they have been pulling out the men – now.

“there’s no other day that we are more able than nowadays,” Narongsak Osotthanakorn, the top of the rescue operations, stated.

Journalists and volunteers have been requested to leave the cave rescue web page – and a brisk, steely temper overtook the camp.

Every boy was given an entire-face air mask to ensure they may breathe, and clipped to a diver. Every Other diver observed them.

A cylinder was once strapped to front of each kid, whilst a maintain was hooked up to their backs – they usually had been held face down to verify water could run clear of their faces.

John, the British rescue diver, likened the equipment to “a shopping bag” that allowed them to manoeuvre the men around obstacles.

At the slender sections, rescuers had to unstrap their air tanks in order to squeeze through, whilst additionally pulling along their treasured cargo.

It may had been terrifying for knowledgeable divers, not to mention kids who couldn’t swim. The Thai executive says the men and the tutor were given anti-anxiousness drugs to relax – but a couple of resources have instructed the BBC that they were if truth be told closely sedated, and most effective semi-conscious in the course of the adventure – to make sure they would now not panic.

As Soon As they reached chamber 3, it used to be time for the second one phase. This took every other few hours.

Each boy used to be secured in a stretcher, and carried by way of a crew of no less than five males. At one point they needed to position the stretcher on a raft and pull it across a chin-prime pool of water.

Symbol copyright AFP/Royal Thai Army

Rescuers had to winch the lads up a steep slope the usage of a pulley device. In a few rocky spaces they shaped a human chain, passing the men hand at hand, while at others they slid them on best of pipes pumping out water.

For diver Ivan Karadzic, the enjoy was extremely irritating. Stationed at a midway aspect within the cave, he was chargeable for changing air tanks and guiding rescue divers thru.

He clearly recalls the nerves he felt when the primary boy emerged from the darkness and used to be introduced towards him. “i didn’t understand if it used to be a casualty or a child,” he informed the BBC.

“but if I noticed that he was once alive and breathing – it felt excellent.”

Symbol copyright Getty Images Image caption Thai students prayed for the rescue project to be a hit

One by means of one, the Wild Boars had been introduced out of the darkness of Tham Luang. They got oxygen prior to they have been impulsively lively away in ambulances to a health center in Chiang Rai city.

Rescuers took them out in 3 batches over as many days, as they wanted time in among to replenish air tanks.

However they were reducing it close. By the time the last batch of boys and the train were out, water ranges had been beginning to rise once more, as all of a sudden as 30cm in a single hour, in keeping with senior Navy SEAL Supachai Tanasansakorn.

It used to be Tuesday 10 July – the day that locals stated the cave could turn out to be completely flooded.

However while the lads were out, there were still other people left on the rocky ledge deep within Tham Luang – the Army SEAL divers and medic who had looked after the Wild Boars, besides as Richard Harris, a famed Australian cave diving skilled and doctor.

They emerged in a while after the closing boy was taken out. It was once no longer a second too soon, as a pump abruptly stopped working – a few mentioned it failed while others stated it was once switched off.

Floodwaters rushed in, sending staff clearing up the site fleeing.


It was once an miraculous feat – after agonising weeks the Thai cave boys and their coach were after all out at last, protected and sound.

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They ’re all out! #ThailandCaveSearch @pakhead extraordinary motion The Army Seal workforce in charge of the rescue says that everyone trapped within the cave has been brought out, completing a rare and hard rescue operation that captivated the sector …

— Martin Patience (@martinpatience) July 10, 2018


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WATCH: THE FANTASTIC second when the last of the Wild Boar workforce made it to Chiang Rai Sanatorium #thamluangcave #thamluang #ถ้ำหลวง #13ชีวิตติดถ้ำ #13ชีวิตรอดแล้ว #พาหมูป่ากลับบ้าน #ThailandCaveRescue

— Howard Johnson (@Howardrjohnson) July 10, 2018


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On Facebook, the Thai Military Seals published: “We Are undecided if this is a miracle, science, or what.”

In Chiang Rai, jubilant crowds covered the streets resulting in the clinic, cheering on the ambulances. Car horns blared often in birthday party.

Symbol copyright Reuters

Thai social media was once inundated with posts hashtagged #ThankYou, #Heroes and #Hooyah, the signature Thai Military Seal chant.

All around the global, tens of millions of individuals who had anxiously followed the story celebrated the go back of the Wild Boars.

However it used to be a bittersweet evening for one person – Richard Harris. The selfless physician who reduce brief his vacation in Thailand to avoid wasting the boys’ lives received the negative information that his father had simply died.

The doctor who selected to stick within the cave

Reunited once more

Symbol copyright AFP Image caption The closing four Military SEALs to go out the cave

Health Facility government stated that some had minor lung and eye infections and wanted antibiotics. except for that, they looked as if it would be on the mend.

In The End, oldsters had been in spite of everything allowed to in short see the lads, even though they needed to deal with a 2m distance, and don hospital robes and masks.

A Few of the men have even been able to start consuming commonplace food once more, after days of yearning chocolate and their favourite snacks.

Image copyright Getty Pictures

Many had expected the story of the lost Wild Boars to finish in tragedy. As An Alternative, it changed into a story of hope and survival, and of oldsters and sons reunited.

it is a story of standard other people from everywhere the world coming in combination in a faraway the town in northern Thailand with one mission: to save 12 younger boys and their show.

“in case you may do the similar for someone else’s kid, you can,” John told reporters upon his go back to the uk.

What’s next for Mae Sai? The district, and Tham Luang cave, had been positioned on the international map, most definitely permanently.

Image copyright AFP Symbol caption the tale of the Wild Boars has ruled life in the area people

Already, local officers are making plans to convert the cave complicated right into a museum and vacationer enchantment – and, necessarily, a minimum of production firms are eyeing the Hollywood potential of the story and angling to turn the rescue venture into a film.

As for the Wild Boars and Teach Ake, plans are afoot for them to shave their heads and spend a couple of days in a monastery. Their households believe this Thai Buddhist custom will bless their lives, and cleanse them of an unlucky enjoy.

“It Is for their coverage,” stated Evening’s grandfather, Seewad Sompiangjai. “It’s like they have died after going into the cave – and now had been reborn.”

For the lads, and Instruct Ake – their first precedence once they leave hospital must certainly be to spend time with their families once more.

After all, Night still has to rejoice that 17th birthday – and his folks have promised him a birthday party.

Additional reporting via BBC Information and BBC Thai staff in Chiang Rai, and BBC Bristol. Animation through Davies Surya. With thanks to the local people of Chiang Rai and elsewhere in Thailand who made our reporting possible.

Read more of the BBC’s reviews on the Thai cave rescue here.

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