Cave Expert Explains Difficulties of Rescuing Trapped Soccer Team

July 5, 2018 9:02 pm Last Updated: July 5, 2018 9:06 pm

 

A caving expert said that luck with the weather is the best hope for a quick rescue for the 12 trapped Thai soccer players and their coach.

Andrew Field, chairman of Philadelphia Grotto, a Pennsylvania-based caving association, visited Fox News to explain why it is so difficult to rescue the Thailand youth soccer team trapped underground.

The 12 boys, between the ages of 11 and 16, entered the cave with their 25-year-old coach on June 23. They were planning to do a little exploring.

Unfortunately for them, a heavy rainstorm rolled in.

The boys, some wrapped in emergency blankets, appear to be in good spirits despite their ordeal. (Thai Navy Seal/Handout via Reuters TV)
The boys, some wrapped in emergency blankets, appear to be in good spirits despite their ordeal. (Thai Navy Seal/Handout via Reuters TV)

As Field explained it, water leached down through the soil as well as collecting at the cave entrance and flooded many of the passageways connecting the room where the boys are trapped.

To get out, the boys would have to put on scuba gear and swim—and many of them do not know how to swim.

Much of the 6-mile Tham Luang cave system can only be reached by crawling on your hands and knees, he said. A person wearing a scuba tank would not be able to fit through. That means the boys would need to take off the tanks and drag them behind.

Rescuers are bringing much-needed supplies to the trapped boys. (Wotchit screenshot)
Rescuers are bringing much-needed supplies to the trapped boys. (Screenshot via Wotchit)

“The analogy, I like to say, is to put somebody in a diving suit and then have them crawl through a sleeping bag,” Field explained. “It’s really hard.”

Worse still, the water is murky with sediment, with very low visibility. The boys would have to follow a guide rope.

On top of that, there is no way to communicate underwater. The boys would be on their own once they started the journey out.

Thai rescue personnel arrive at the Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children's football team on June 25, 2018. (Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai rescue personnel arrive at the Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the boys’ football team on June 25, 2018. (Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn/AFP/Getty Images)

The best hope the boys have is for nature to cooperate with a series of dry days, so that the water will naturally subside enough that the they can walk back out, with perhaps only a few short underwater passages.

If that fails, all the other scenarios are grim.

Rescue teams are seen inside of the Tham Luang caves where 12 members of an Under 16 soccer team were trapped in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 25, 2018. (Stringer/Reuters)

A Long, Damp Ordeal

It should be possible to keep the boys alive in the cave until the rainy season ends in October or November. Fields said that the ambient temperature is about 72 degrees, so the boys wouldn‘t need shelter or heat.

However, they are trapped on a small shelf, surrounded by dirty water, in total darkness.

Lights could be rigged, and a telephone line has already been extended to the chamber. The 12 boys and their coach would have to endure months of inactivity, sitting on solid rock, surrounded by dirty water, never knowing how long they might have to wait.

They would need to be supplied with food and fresh water—and in time, waste might become an issue.

If there was no way to safely train the boys to swim using scubas gear, they could be kept alive indefinitely, but it would be a great hardship.

Another option would be to drill down to the cave, but that is almost fantastic in its difficulty. Even using the best available technology, drilling through half-a-mile of solid rock precisely into the chamber where the boys are trapped would be more luck than science.

It might take so long to drill down that waiting would be the better option.

The 25-year-old coach and his players, ages 11–16, ventured into the cave system to have some fun exploring nature. (Wotchit screenshot)
The 25-year-old coach and his players, ages 11–16, ventured into the cave system to have some fun exploring nature. (Wotchit screenshot)

The boys have already survived 10 days in total darkness with absolutely no idea if they would ever been found. Now at least they know that one way or another, they will probably survive this ordeal. They also know that the days ahead might get harder before they get easier.

 

 

Watch Next: