When 12 young boys and their assistant soccer coach entered Thailand’s Tham Luang cave on June 23, they planned to stay in the cave for just one hour.
But once it began to rain, and the waters in the cave rose – they were trapped.
The boys had simply no choice but to climb further into the cave to find higher ground until the water settled.
“After an hour when they wanted to leave, the water level was rising. They ran further inside the cave to escape from the water. The water flow was strong,” Banphot Konkum, a father of one of the boy’s said.
“They, all 13 of them, saw a small passage or a crawl space, so they all dug the hole to get through to another spot, until they found Nen Nom Sao [a sandy slope],” he said.
Trapped on this small, sandy slope, the boys were stuck for 17 long days until they were rescued on Tuesday.
The team and their 25-year-old coach are believed to have ventured into the cave for an initiation ceremony, which involved writing their names on the cave walls.
Watch: The young boys are rescued from the Thailand cave.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, as the rescue operation got underway, handprints were spotted on the walls of the cave, where the children had scanned the walls to search for a crawl space.
A mother of one of the boys spoke to a Bangkok newspaper, sharing how distraught her 11-year-old son became while trapped in the cave.
“After the first three nights with no food in the cave, my son felt extreme hunger and cried. He had to rely only on water dripping from the rock. It was very cold at night and pitch dark. They had to lie huddled together,” she told the Bangkok Post.
An Australian doctor who was heavily involved in the rescue operation has also opened up about the immense pressure he felt as the rescue mission commenced.
“I have never seen anything like it with man battling to control the natural forces of the monsoon waters,” anaesthetist and cave-diving expert Richard Harris wrote on Facebook.
Harris also spoke about being praised as a hero by the Australian media for his involvement in the rescue.
“The part we played has been made out to be a lot more noble than it actually was, we just consider ourselves lucky to have had some skills that we could contribute to the wonderful outcome,” he wrote.
Dr Harris was one of eight Australians involved in the rescue. He swam to the boys on all three rescue days and was the last person to exit the cave on Tuesday.
The Adelaide doctor’s Australian accent was even noted as a key tool in keeping the boys calm.
“Dr Harris, he’s very good, he’s got a very good bedside manner, he’s got a very bouncy Australian accent and they seemed to find that quite relaxing and reassuring,” British diver John Volanthen told The Times.
There are calls for Dr Harris and his diving partner Craig Challen to be awarded a Cross of Valour, Australia’s highest bravery decoration.