Perhaps you were glued to the news in late June and early July of 2018 as the world followed the ultimately successful efforts in northern Thailand to rescue the 12 young boys of a soccer team and their assistant coach from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave who had become trapped by sudden flooding. If you haven’t checked in on the story since then, though, you have no idea. As incredible as the operation seemed at the time, the truth is so audacious, so insane, that the full details of how the boys were rescued weren’t revealed until well after the mission was completed, and news reports even months afterward continued to perpetuate misleading, overly rosy accounts of the rescue.
If you don’t know what really happened, don’t Google it. The best way to learn the truth today is by watching one of two movies: the well-crafted Ron Howard drama Thirteen Lives (in theaters July 29th and on Amazon Prime August 5th) or the astonishing NatGeo documentary The Rescue (one of my top 10 films of 2021, now streaming on Disney+).
Both films are moving odes to heroism, human solidarity, and ingenuity in the face of seemingly impossible odds. It’s a feel-good story in the end, but incredibly harrowing as it unfolds. So many factors way against the mission that success seems impossible even to imagine, let alone achieve. The long, at times excruciatingly narrow twists and turns of the cave are so daunting, and the water currents at the time were so strong, that even Thai Navy SEALs were at a loss. In the end, thousands of people, including local and international volunteers, local military and police, US Special Forces, and medical professionals made crucial contributions to the success of the mission — but the rescue itself was planned and carried out by a handful of British and Australian amateur cave divers whose passion for their niche sport had cultivated in them the specific skills needed for this operation. Even then, the mission would have failed had one of them not happened to have the right day job.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.