On June 23, 2018, a Thai youth soccer team took a presumably short hike into a cave in northern Thailand, but it turned into a much more traumatic and long-lasting affair. The 12 boys and their coach were the subjects of a harrowing cave rescue. The seasonal flooding, as well as the group's hard-to-reach location and physical condition, presented serious challenges to the rescue.
Experts from around the world and the Thai Navy SEALs arrived to help save the group. Many Navy SEAL missions are top secret and not yet declassified, but not this one; it dominated Thailand's news cycle. Over the span of 18 days, hundreds of people from the international community collaborated to save the trapped soccer team.
On July 10, 2018, rescue divers freed the last four Wild Boars team members and their coach from the cave. Rescuers transported them to the hospital with the eight other previously rescued boys.
At 10 am local time, 19 divers entered the cave to finish the final leg of the recovery mission. The dive and rescue took nine hours - this was the end of an 18-day saga in which hundreds of international experts flew in to offer help.
As of July 9, 2018, rescuers had freed a total of eight boys from the Tham Luang cave. There were still four boys trapped on a ledge roughly 2.5 miles inside the meandering cave.
Organizers paused recovery efforts to allow rescue workers to prepare equipment and rest. According to CNN, the team needed at least 20 hours to prepare for the third leg of the mission. Meanwhile, doctors monitored the rescued boys to make sure they had not contracted any diseases in the cave; the boys recuperated well.
In the early afternoon hours of June 23, 2018, a dozen members of the Wild Boars soccer team in northern Thailand went on a hike with their 25-year-old coach, Ekkapol Chantawong. They reportedly had just finished practice when they ventured into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, trekking miles through the elaborate complex of tunnels. The boys, all under the age of 16, rode bikes to the cave entrance and left them there before venturing inside. As they descended into the cave, heavy rains began to fall and floods trapped the group inside.
A park ranger noticed bikes and pairs of abandoned boys' shoes near the entrance of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. He immediately initiated a search. Though there were flood warnings outside the cave, the boys may have traveled deep into the cave because they wanted to write their names on the wall as part of an initiation.
The first search group went into the cave during the early hours of June 24, equipped with oxygen tanks and ropes. They found bags and additional shoes. They turned around because of rising water and exhaustion, but went back later in the day. After searchers walked three kilometers into the cave, authorities had to suspend the search again due to flooding.