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143 – Not exactly a man cave

You don’t know when your unique combination of skills will be needed. Listen to hear the story behind the miraculous rescue of thirteen boys from a Thai cave system.

Man in cave

Welcome to another episode of Anecdotally Speaking! This week, Mark shares a story that’s quite popular with the Anecdote team and gets a 9/10 from both of our hosts!

Cynden shared this story with the team after hearing it on Sarah Davidson’s Seize the Yay podcast. You can listen to Sarah’s episode with Richard Harris here. And you can find Craig Challen and Richard Harris’ book, Against All Oddshere

We have just released our 2022 events calendar! If you’re interested in coming along to a Storytelling for LeadersStory-Powered Sales or Story-Powered Data program, visit www.anecdote.com/events. If you’d like to evaluate a program for your organisation, email us at people@anecdote.com, and we’ll organise a free ticket for you.

For your storybank

Tags: challenges, expertise, experts, persistence, skills

This story starts at 03:05

On the 23rd of June, 2018, twelve boys from a Thai soccer team and their assistant coach became trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. They had entered the cave after soccer practice and before heavy rain fell, filling it with water.

A week passed with no word from the boys. The world feared they had died.

Then, on the 2nd of July, two renowned British cave divers, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, found the boys. All thirteen were still alive.

Finding the boys was considered one of the all-time greatest cave diving achievements. The boys were 4km into the system in immensely difficult conditions. The water was so muddy that it was like coffee. The currents were so strong that they initially couldn’t be swum against. The divers had to wait a few days before they could progress through the maze.

One Thai Navy Seal died attempting to find the boys. Another died months later from a blood infection he contracted during the operation.

From the mouth of the cave to where the divers found the boys was a three-hour journey. In some places, the divers had to squeeze through gaps that were as narrow as twelve inches.

Australian cave divers Richard Harris and Craig Challen were called to join the rescue effort. Harris was an anaesthetist by trade.

Lots of ideas were discussed around how they could rescue the boys from the cave. They pumped millions of litres of water from the system but failed to make any impact. They considered drilling into it but couldn’t.

Monsoon rains would soon make the cave inaccessible, even to the would’s best, and they couldn’t bring the necessary supplies into it to keep the boys alive until the end of the monsoon season.

They were running out of options. Harris was asked to consider anaesthetising the boys so that they could then be swum out of the cave by a professional. If the boys were kept awake and panicked, they would likely die and cause the death of their rescue diver.

Harris thought, “There’s no way. That’s not going to happen. I can think of a million ways those boys could die with that plan.” He considered it impossible.

But there weren’t any other options, so Harris reluctantly agreed to the plan.

Over three days, Harris swam the three-hour dive to the boys. One at a time, he would anaesthetise a boy, put him in a wetsuit and full face mask, test his face mask by pushing his head under the water, and pass him to his rescue diver to begin the dive out. He would stay in the cave all day, and each day they got three to four boys out.

They successfully rescued each of the thirteen team members. Right up until the last boy was rescued, Harris thought the plan would fail. He was later awarded the medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and was Australian of the Year in 2019.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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