Two Weeks Trapped: A Trip Through Trial, Terror, Tragedy, And Triumph

In the summer, people are more prone to outdoor adventures, physical activity, and just soaking up the sun while it’s warm outside. While June might be the month of the highest ice cream production and consumption in the United States, in Thailand, it’s monsoon season. You’ve doubtlessly been reading about this story in the news for nearly three weeks. Hearing about the painstaking, laborious process of rescuing 12 young boys and their soccer coach — the Wild Boars soccer team — stuck in a cave in Thailand is enough to make one feel claustrophobic from where they’re sitting.

The coverage has been updated on an ongoing basis, and, now, thankfully, all of the boys and their coach have been retrieved from the cave alive after two and half weeks in tight quartered darkness. While our concept of time can’t possibly relate to how they felt trapped beneath the earth, nearly three weeks is enough to make any news timeline hazy, especially from across the world. More than 80% of internet users access information from their smartphones, but even with updates, over a time period this long and fragmented it’s tough to piece everything together cohesively.

Presenting a timeline of the effort, bravery, and cross-continent collaboration involved in this rescue mission highlights everyone involved. Through panic-inducing scenarios and, at times, terrifying odds, everyone pulled together to make this rescue a success.

A dangerous adventure

Cave diving during monsoon season is a markedly hazardous exploit. The questions are ongoing as to why the soccer coach thought it was a good idea to do so in the first place, but there isn’t information as of yet. It began in late June, with posted warnings that cave dives were especially dangerous during monsoon season. On June 23rd, the boys and their coach became trapped as monsoon rains flooded the tunnels, cutting off feasible escapes. A group of 12 boys, all between ages 11 and 16 and their 25-year-old soccer coach were trapped underground in lightless, tight quarters, filling with water.

Nine days, nine nights

Trust isn’t easy to come by, and strangers decide on a person’s trustworthiness in as little as a tenth of a second. After being trapped in the cave for nine days with little to no food and cave water to drink (which definitively kept them alive), the glimmer of headlamps from two British cave divers might’ve been the most beautiful sight the trapped soccer team will ever see.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen are cave diving hobbyists. Which, given the danger and technical nature of such a venture, hobby is hardly the word. Craft is more the term for their level of expertise. They’re the ones who found the boys and their coach four kilometers inside the cave, where they’d been for nine days.

“How many of you? Thirteen? Brilliant,” one of the men is heard talking to the group they just found. The group inquired if they’d get out of the cave that day, to which one of the divers responded, “No, not today, not today. There’s two of us. You’ll have to dive.”

Being the first to discover the team, they lept into action and made authorities aware of what would soon become a mission involving more than 1,000 people. It was time to get to work.

Tragedy and triumph

In the U.S. alone, the year 2015 counted 4,836 workers killed on the job, some 13 deaths per day. To highlight just how difficult this rescue mission was, a highly trained Thai Navy SEAL died for lack of oxygen while bringing supplies to the trapped soccer team. His service and sacrifice shocked onlookers around the world, rallying the support of legions of people involved.

One particular hero to be magnified is Australian Anaesthesiologist and cave diver known only as Dr. Harris, who was on vacation in Thailand. Hearing of the emergency, he abandoned vacation time and set out to help rescue the boys. Having a uniquely two-pronged skill set, his expertise was pivotal in the rescue efforts. He stayed with the team underground for three days to monitor their health, while giving what treatment and comfort he could.

A long weekend

July 8, 9, and 10, everyone was safely extracted from the cave. Dr. Harris was reported to be the last rescuer out of the cave along with three Thai Navy SEALs. A triumph lived briefly before hearing news of his own father’s untimely death just days prior. His selflessness has people around the world singing his praises and requesting that he receive the highest civic honor in Australia: Australian of the Year. His help and the help of countless others made a successful rescue operation possible.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave. Everyone is safe,” reported the SEALS upon their exit from the cave.

The Wild Boars team is currently in quarantine in the hospital, pending the rebuilding of their immune systems and reducing the risk of illness. They’re in stable health with minor infections and malnourishment, reportedly already prepared to ditch the hospital food for something spicy. After nearly three weeks in a cave? We don’t blame them.

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