July 6, 2018

One of the rescue divers at the Thailand cave has died.

"Saman Kunan, 38, a volunteer and former Thai Navy Seal... died on his way out of the cave complex where he had been delivering air tanks to different locations along the treacherous submerged route that leads to the chamber some 2.5 miles from the main exit," the UK Telegraph reports.

After delivering oxygen, he ran out of oxygen.
The tragedy was a frightening reminder of how dangerous it would be to dive the boys, in a weakened state and some unable to swim, through a labyrinth of winding, dark passages which take even fit, expert divers five hours, using four oxygen tanks, to battle through strong currents.

“Inside the cave is tough,” said Thai Seal commander Rear Admiral Arpakorn Yookongkaew. But he added: “I can guarantee that we will not panic, we will not stop our mission, we will not let the sacrifice of our friend go to waste.”

55 comments:

PM said...

A possible storm is coming to further complicate matters.

J. Farmer said...

Cave diving is certainly one of the most dangerous diving activities one can engage in. Combine that with young children who have zero diving experience, and at least a few of whom cannot even swim, and the trip becomes almost intolerably dangerous. There is zero visibility, strong currents, and extremely narrow passageways that in at least one spot in a 90 degree angle. The dive from the spot where the children are located back to the entrance takes several hours to complete. The current plan has been the effort to pump enough water out of the cave to allow the children to essentially wade in waist deep water back to the entrance, but there is a question of if this can be completed before fresh rain storms deluge the cave once more. Another floated option has been to simply stock the cave with provisions to allow the children to stay there for the several months it will take for the rainy season to pass and the cave to dry out.

traditionalguy said...

A volunteer who risked his life for others. That is quite touching.

Etienne said...

What I would do is bring some Tigers into the cave where the boys are. After the Tigers get done eating, they can shoot the Tigers, and fill the caves with ammonium nitrate slurry.

pacwest said...

This is the first time I have heard about currents. That would complicate matters in zero visibility. I still haven't seen how the stranded group was discovered in the first place. There's a lot of emotional reporting but very little on the facts.

I certified in cave diving but never enjoyed it that much, so never kept up the cert. And I sure as hell wouldn't get anywhere near anything like this. The fact that a trained SEAL died in there doesn't inspire confidence that they can get them out alive. Start drilling.

Etienne said...

I mean, I would rather be eaten by a Tiger, than drown.

Tigers tear your head off, it isn't painful.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

pacwest said...

Start drilling.

Yeah, I wondered if that would be an option.

J. Farmer said...

@Etienne:

What I would do is bring some Tigers into the cave where the boys are. After the Tigers get done eating, they can shoot the Tigers, and fill the caves with ammonium nitrate slurry.

Well let's hope for the sake of humanity you have chosen not to reproduce.

Rae said...

Start drilling.

Is air pressure in there a factor? If they drill a hole (thereby releasing air) will the caves fill with water?

I genuinely don't know. But I do know about plumbing.

Rae said...

What I would do is bring some Tigers into the cave where the boys are

Good luck finding a scuba trained tiger.

Although it occurs to me that Scuba Tiger could be the next Sharknado.

J. Farmer said...

@Rae:

Is air pressure in there a factor? If they drill a hole (thereby releasing air) will the caves fill with water?

From what I have heard from folks on the ground, the drilling plan has basically been abandoned. There is a 1km mountain on top of where the children are located. Numerous scouts from southern Thailand though have been scaling the mountain top looking for alternative entries. The children reported hearing dogs barking and roosters crowing while trapped, which suggests there may be an unknown opening into the complex, though of course considering nine days in darkness with no food, the possibility of simply hearing things is high.

Yancey Ward said...

Unless they can pump out an escape route in the next few days, the boys are going to die.

mockturtle said...

Sounds like a job for Robo-Seal.

Matt Sablan said...

At this point, I know it might be callous, but the "give them provisions and wait it out" might be the best plan. The worst that happens is that it turns into a long process; if they end up STILL having to swim them out, at least they won't be as starved, and maybe they can teach some swimming?

Honestly: I'm glad I'm not the one making these calls. This is a well of No Good Options.

etbass said...

Really a pretty wierd situation. Can't help but wonder if this were in America, if something of American inegenuity might discover a solution (and different than execution of victims by tiger).

Original Mike said...

I heard a report this morning that the oxygen levels in the cavern are dropping.

J. Farmer said...

@etbass:

Really a pretty wierd situation. Can't help but wonder if this were in America, if something of American inegenuity might discover a solution (and different than execution of victims by tiger).

Members of the National Cave Rescue Commission have commented on this. There are only so many options when you have people trapped in a flooded cave with one known entrance. Also, this really is not merely a Thai operation but involves experts from numerous countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, and China. Also, Thailand is a major world diving destination and home to numerous skilled divers of multiple nationalities.

richlb said...

I am slowly starting to sense that, sadly, this will not end well for those boys. When they were first found I thought they could just stick it out and get rescued when the rains died down. But a sense of dread is falling over that situation and time is not an anyone's side.

narayanan said...

https://www.google.com/search?q=thailand+cave+rescue+map&client=firefox-b-1&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=zgMS6jGdMCzcWM%253A%252Cx2Y-YdWvV256xM%252C_&usg=__qJ0uM-q886LGy7FqGYXJwsx_5uU%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiVj7vB_4rcAhWoVN8KHdUQDkAQ9QEIiwEwEw#imgrc=jIl0VLNuucLzcM:

why don't they enlarge some of the caverns/cavities between the entrance and where the kids are and do it in stages?

But the army general did say they had a plan B!!

Will said...

The part of the exit route that requires diving is about 100 feet long, according to earlier reports. Amateur caving rescue groups in the U.S. regularly carry out similar missions with great success. I fear we're about to see the media and government in Thailand perform at their best, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

narayanan said...

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/elon-musk-sends-engineers-to-thai-cave-rescue-in-the-hope-of-creating-tube-so-boys-can-crawl-free-a3881501.html

dreams said...

I respect all the courageous people out there who volunteer their efforts at rescuing, they're made out of better stuff than me.

J. Farmer said...

@Will Brown:

The part of the exit route that requires diving is about 100 feet long, according to earlier reports. Amateur caving rescue groups in the U.S. regularly carry out similar missions with great success. I fear we're about to see the media and government in Thailand perform at their best, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

Do you have a link to these "earlier reports?" The dive from where the boys are located to the entrance to the cave has been taking up to 5-6 hours. And that's by professional cave divers. Part of the route includes areas so narrow oxygen tanks have to be removed in order for the diver to pass through. There are also areas that requires climbing gear to surmount. And this is with a tremendous amount of silt that provides zero visibility and strong currents. There is not a single cave rescue diving professional who believes anything like the notion that "amateur caving rescue groups in the U.S. regularly carry out similar missions with great success."

CJ said...

How the heck did they get in there? Trapped by rising water caused by rain?

Poor kids and poor, brave guy. Hope it all turns out OK. I've done a decent amount of SCUBA diving and have my Advanced Open Water certification but I'm scared to death of cave diving. I was scared going in ship wrecks where visibility was great and I could see open water (which you have to do to get the certification).

CJ said...

"There are about 2.5 miles of flooded cave between them and the cave’s mouth."

Vox says the boys wanted to go farther in the cave to write their names as part of an initiation.

They didn't go 2.5 miles into a cave, did they?

Leland said...

Drilling requires heavy equipment trying to reach a known location. My understanding is the ground above the cave is thick mountain jungle, which would make getting heavy equipment in and out difficult. Further, the cave is mostly unchartered, so the exact location in relation to the surface is unknown.

I think there is still lots of options to explore, but it will require a good deal of logistics to get equipment there to provide those options. Otherwise, the choices are the tools one has, which is dive gear.

Excavation would help, but besides the previously mentioned terrain; you have to worry about cave-ins. Blasting would be a terrible idea.

Nonapod said...

Yeah, I don't know how realistically workable Musk's tube idea is, but at least its something.

J. Farmer said...

@CJ:

How the heck did they get in there? Trapped by rising water caused by rain?

Yes, exactly. There is signage around the entrance declaring not to enter from July to October, which is the traditional rainy season in Chiang Rai. The boys entered near the end of June and normally would have been able to simply walk in and walk out. But flash flooding cut off the entrance and rising water from rainfall forced them onto a ledge deeper into the cave.

Infinite Monkeys said...

There is signage around the entrance declaring not to enter from July to October, which is the traditional rainy season in Chiang Rai. The boys entered near the end of June

Stupid weather, can't read a calendar properly.

AllenS said...

“I can guarantee that we will not panic, we will not stop our mission, we will not let the sacrifice of our friend go to waste.”

And, to that I say: Airborne, men, Airborne All The Way!

Larry J said...


Blogger pacwest said...
This is the first time I have heard about currents. That would complicate matters in zero visibility. I still haven't seen how the stranded group was discovered in the first place. There's a lot of emotional reporting but very little on the facts. ”

It was reported a day or two ago that two British cave diving experts found the boys and their coach.

AllenS said...

If there are truly currents, that means that the water is flowing somewhere downhill, or draining.

CJ said...

@JFarmer

Wow. Thanks. Terrible situation.

Seeing Red said...

It seems the diver did not run out of tank air. He took his mask off as was breathing naturally, but where he took it off didn’t have enough oxygen and he passed out.

Rick said...

Seeing Red said...
It seems the diver did not run out of tank air. He took his mask off as was breathing naturally,


The bad (and absent) information is amazing considering every media outlet has 40 stories on the subject. I can't get past their adult leader allowing this to happen.

Josephbleau said...

Im not going to do the calcs but it would take 130 100' reels of air hose to thread in and hook to an air compressor. If you used 3 to 6" hose you may be able to keep the inlet pressure below 80 psi or so and get a few CFM of breathable air to the end. The kids could tie on to the line and shuttle out with the line returned by divers, it would take a long time.

Josephbleau said...

100 foot lengths of 5" 400 psi fire hose with 5 or 10 regulators and mouthpieces at the end should be perfect.

J. Farmer said...

@Josephbleau:

So I guess the question is what do you know that the dozens of certified cave rescue divers on the ground don't?

pacwest said...

Thanks for the info from those who provided it. Still tons of unanswered questions though.

"It was reported a day or two ago that two British cave diving experts found the boys and their coach." They just happened to be swimming by?? Two miles in?

Also, is there any pressure buildup? Even at 2 atmospheres (30 ft underwater) they've been in there a long time, and the outgassing on the trip out would be very lenghty due to nitrogen in the bloodstream, but there must be a large vent somewhere or they would have run out of O2 before now.

Anybody who has dove in zero visibility can tell you how disorienting that is. Unless you are prepared for it panic sets in pretty quickly. Even with training it is unsettling at best. I just don't see how getting them out underwater is a viable option given what little I know. All the options seem to suck. If they get out alive it would be a extrodinary feat. Hoping for the best.

rhhardin said...

If they were girls, you'd have another Jessica in the Well wall-to-wall TV coverage.

Oso Negro said...

@richlb - I have the bad feeling that you are right. Plus, there are reports that oxygen is down to 15% where the boys are. If the water starts coming up fast....

Ignorance is Bliss said...

rhhardin said...

If they were girls, you'd have another Jessica in the Well wall-to-wall TV coverage.

If they weren't actually in the cave, you'd have another Balloon Boy wall-to-wall TV coverage.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

CJ said...

Hope it all turns out OK.

Re-read the post title. We are already beyond it all turning out OK.

WK said...

The articles keep mentioning that the divers are using oxygen tanks. As I recall from the limited dive training I had is that you probably should not use oxygen tanks. Air or tri-mix is better.

Robt C said...

I'm claustrophobic, so I get the willies just reading about this. The fact that some guys swam/dove/crawled thru 2 1/2 MILES of narrow, dark, wet caves to find these kids astounds me. I think about starting into one of those narrow passages and not knowing how much narrower it might get, and I MIGHT GET STUCK IN THERE. IEEee. Plus the thought of those kids being in that "space" they found for several months gives me even more willies. And the thought of having to swim/dive/crawl thru 2.5 miles of narrow caves with zero visibility water and rough currents to escape that little shithole they are in gives me even more willies. What a no-win mess. I have the deepest respect for everyone involved with the rescue and the deepest hopes for the kids.

readering said...

Sounds like he may have sacrificed his life in a good cause if his fate convinced the authorities not to try to move the boys under water.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Too sad. Too sad. I blame the 25 yr old coach.

Jeebus! 2.5 mile swim underwater (weightless) in the dark, with currents. Dedication and focus. Night IFR in weather with just the cat and duck.

William said...

I purposely avoid stories about this. It's got a Challenger vibe. Even if the kids are finally rescued after spending months in a dark cave in mortal peril, their lives are never going to be intact again. This story sucks.

Jamie said...

Bless the people working this problem... If there is any doubt in anyone's mind that humans are not the same as animals, despite our common heritage, I hope stories like this assuage that doubt. There is no animal that would go to these lengths for its own young, much less for somebody else's.

I'm hoping hard for a miracle, wrought by science and determination. Or whatever works.

J. Farmer said...

@Jamie:

Bless the people working this problem... If there is any doubt in anyone's mind that humans are not the same as animals, despite our common heritage, I hope stories like this assuage that doubt.

If it is a subject that interests you, you may want to check out Yuval Harari's 2014 book Sapiens. He makes the argument that humans have come to dominate the globe primarily because of our ability to cooperate in large numbers.

Freeman Hunt said...

Bring in the oil companies.

grackle said...

Ordinary caving is a dangerous sport. Cave-diving is extremely dangerous.

BTW, unlike most physical sports, women make excellent cavers. They are generally smaller, lighter and more limber. Extreme muscular strength is rarely needed. Skill, a certain amount of athleticism and the ability to perform under pressure are the equalizers.

Anecdote: We were teaching newbies how to use climbing gear at a sinkhole. They were all told to get rid of scarves, handkerchiefs, neckerchiefs … to tie long hair into a bun under their helmets … anything that could snag.

But one novice left her helmet chinstrap dangling and it caught in her descending device. As she struggled it tightened. She was lucky; an experienced caver among us had another line tied and over the lip within a few seconds. He zipped down to where she was caught, boosted her with his knee under her butt to relieve the pressure on her device, whipped out a switchblade, cut the chinstrap and held that position until her color returned. She was able to continue down. Disaster averted.

I wonder whether cave-diving is part of the training of the Thai Navy Seals. Cave-diving is very different than ordinary diving. The article mentions “caving experts” but that could mean anything. What they need are experienced cave-rescue experts. They exist – or at least used to. I knew a couple of them.

stlcdr said...

The facts of the story are probably very scattered, not so much incorrect, and open to interpretation. This is likely a very chaotic situation. However human beings have a great tendency to focus on specific tasks - even in large groups - in chaotic and critical situations.

Fernandinande said...

Jamie said...
There is no animal that would go to these lengths for its own young, much less for somebody else's.


Almost all social insects spend their lives caring for offspring which are not theirs.

Josephbleau said...

"Rescuers have fed a kilometres-long air pipe into the cave to restore oxygen levels in the chamber where the team are sheltering, accompanied by medics and expert divers."

this article must me completely wrong, Mr. Farmer said this was a completely uninformed idea.