— Muktita Suhartono and Richard C. Paddock, at the Tham Luang Cave
Caving experts see hope but obstacles in rescue
A Thai Navy captain has raised the possibility that, in the worst-case scenario, the 12 boys and their soccer coach could be in Tham Luang Cave until the end of the July-to-November rainy season.
Several experts say that it would be better to extract the group much sooner, and that several factors would work in rescuers’ favor. But they also acknowledge that any rescue would carry unavoidable risks.
Dinko Novosel, the president of the European Cave Rescue Association, said one positive factor is the Thai cave’s warm air temperature. Cold air was a risk, he noted, during the 2014 rescue of Johann Westhauser, who had been trapped nearly 4,000 feet below ground in Germany’s deepest cavern. (Mr. Westhauser was saved after more than 11 days in a rescue operation that required 728 people.)
Above all, Mr. Novosel said, he was confident that the rescue effort in Tham Luang Cave would succeed because the British divers involved are world-renowned specialists. “The British are best when there’s water in a cave,” he said in a telephone interview from Croatia.
But Chris Boardman, the national safeguarding officer for the British Caving Association, said a rescue would be “tricky” because divers would need to take diving equipment into the cave, teach the children how to use it and bring them out, one at a time, through flooded passages.
What’s more, Mr. Novosel said, a key to escaping from a narrow, flooded cave passage is an ability to conserve air and maintain one’s confidence and composure.
“These are kids, and they will probably be scared,” he said. “When a person is scared, he uses so much air. So this is delicate — very delicate.”