The Tham Luang Thai Cave Rescue
Dr Richard “Harry” Harris works in anaesthesia and aeromedical retrieval medicine in Adelaide, South Australia. He has expertise in diving, wilderness and remote area health. His passion for cave diving goes back to the 1980s and has taken him to the corners of the globe in search of new adventures.
Harry and the “Wet Mules” have explored the Pearse Resurgence in New Zealand to 229m depth, Daxing Spring in China to 213m and Song Hong Cave in Thailand to 196m to name a few. He is an enthusiastic but inferior UW photographer and videographer who is resigned to capturing opportunistic images via helmet cams.
Harry has a professional and voluntary interest in search and rescue operations, establishing the first sump rescue training course in Australasia. By building relationships with emergency services in Australia he has been preparing for such an event.
The 2018 Thailand Cave Rescue was an opportunity to put this training to work.
In June and July 2018, a widely publicised cave rescue saved the lives of members of a junior football team who were trapped inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. Twelve members of the team, aged eleven to sixteen, and their 25-year-old assistant coach entered the cave on 23 June after football practice. Shortly afterwards, heavy rains partially flooded the cave, blocking their way out.
Efforts to locate the group were hampered by rising water levels and strong currents, and no contact was made for more than a week. The rescue effort expanded into a massive operation amid intense worldwide public interest involving international rescue teams. On 2 July, after advancing through narrow passages and muddy waters, British divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton found the group alive on an elevated rock about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the cave mouth. Rescue organisers discussed various options for extracting the group, including whether to teach them basic diving skills to enable their early rescue, wait until a new entrance was found or drilled, or wait for the floodwaters to subside at the end of the monsoon season months later. After days of pumping water from the cave system and a respite from rain, the rescue teams hastened to get everyone out before the next monsoon rain, which was expected to bring a potential 52 mm (2.0 in) of additional rainfall and was predicted to start around 11 July. Between 8 and 10 July, all twelve of the boys and their coach were rescued from the cave by an international team.