Challenges for boys trapped in Thai cave is mental, not physical, experts say
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, July 9, 2018 12:37PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 9, 2018 3:00PM EDT
The challenges 12 boys and their soccer coach are facing as they make their way out of a flooded cave in Thailand are more mental than physical, Canadian cave divers and rescuers said Monday.
The dangerous underwater rescues -- considered a last resort -- involve two divers accompanying each of the boys, none of whom had experience diving before they were found on July 2.
The group had gone exploring in the massive Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23 after a soccer practice, and were cut off when a rainstorm flooded the cave.
A massive international search operation was launched and it took 10 days to locate the boys, who had taken shelter on a dry slope deep in the complex.
Typically people would learn to scuba dive before embarking on a more technically challenging cave dive like the one involved in the rescue effort, said Chris Foisey, a St. Catharines, Ont.-based scuba instructor with experience diving through underwater tunnels.
But the boys have had experts on hand to navigate the tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents, with no light to guide the way.
Foisey said the rescuers will be looking for signs including the direction the bubbles are travelling in order to figure out which way leads out of the cave and which leads farther in.
So the challenge for the children lies in keeping in keeping calm while remembering the minutiae of a new skill, Foisey said.
"For instance, if their mask was to leak, how to clear the mask properly without any sort of panic," he said.
The kids may also have been instructed in non-verbal ways to communicate while underwater using touch and light, he said. For instance, a squeeze of the arm could mean there's an emergency, or a light moving in a circle could mean "OK."
Christian Stenner, a provincial co-ordinator for the Alberta/BC Cave Rescue Service, said making sure the kids understand what's going on is key.
"Any way we can help involve them in their own rescue is beneficial," he said. "It gives them a bit of focus, a bit of ownership over the process."
And, Foisey said, the boys do have one thing going for them: "I'm sure these kids were very determined to get home."
-With files from The Associated Press