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Improbably enough, most of the escapes went flawlessly.
A crew of foreign and Thai cave divers courted death every time they explored Tham Luang’s cramped chambers.
Overseas military teams brought search-and-rescue equipment. The Americans provided logistics, while British divers navigated the most hazardous stretches.
Lacking proper helmets, the SEALs taped a medley of flashlights to their improvised headgear.
On the 10th day, July 2nd, with little hope of discovering anything but bodies, a pair of British divers working to extend a network of guide ropes popped up near a narrow ledge.
“The most important piece of the rescue was good luck,” said Maj Gen Chalongchai Chaiyakham, deputy commander of the Thai 3rd army region, which helped the operation.
“So many things could have gone wrong, but somehow we managed to get the boys out.” “I still can’t believe it worked,” he said.But the Thai frogmen were accustomed to tropical open water, not the murky cold currents racing through the cave.They lacked the equipment, much less the expertise needed for caves, where divers cannot just rise to the surface should something go wrong.The risks were underscored last Friday when Saman Gunan, a retired navy SEAL, died in an underwater passageway.Three SEAL frogmen were hospitalised after their air tanks ran low.Rescuers inside an underground chamber felt a tug on the rope – the sign that one of the 12 boys and their coach would soon emerge from the flooded tunnels. With visibility near zero, he couldn’t find the line again.“Fish on,” the rescuers signalled, recalled Maj Charles Hodges of the US air force, mission commander for the US team on site. Slowly, he backtracked, going deeper into the cave to find the rope, before the rescue could resume. It was a frightening moment in what had been a surprisingly smooth rescue of the soccer team, the Wild Boars, who had survived the murky darkness of Thailand’s Tham Luang Cave, sometimes by licking water off the cold limestone walls.Even for someone as experienced in cave diving as Ruengrit, the force of the water in Tham Luang shocked him, tearing his mask off when he failed to position himself directly facing the current.“It was like walking into a strong waterfall and feeling the water rushing at you,” he said.“It was a horizontal climb against the water with every move.” The SEALs and volunteer divers painstakingly penetrated the cave, securing guidelines needed to ensure their safety.They found footprints that hinted at the soccer team’s trail.