There are 3 ways to get the trapped Thai soccer team out of the cave they're stuck in – but none will be easy

Linh Pham/Getty ImagesRelatives of the missing boys react after the 12 boys and their soccer coach have been found alive in the cave where they’ve been missing for over a week.
  • 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach have been stuck in a cave for 11 days.
  • Rescuers made contact with them Monday, but soon realised there is no easy way to get them out.
  • They are at least a mile inside a system that has flooded by heavy rain that’s likely to continue for months.
  • In short, the three options available are to teach the boys to swim out with scuba gear, drag them out, or leave them with supplies to wait until the water drains away.

After 10 days trapped inside a cave, the young Thai soccer team heard the voice of a rescue diver promising them help. The boys got hope, and the world got confirmation that they were still alive.

“Many people are coming. Many many people. We are the first,” British diver John Volanthen told the 12 boys and their coach on Monday. Here’s a video of them shortly after making contact:

But after the joy of learning that the team was still alive, the question became what to do next.

Bill Whitehouse, the vice-chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council, which has been in contact with the rescue efforts, spelled out three options in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme:

The boys could be taught to scuba dive so they can swim out of the cave system

The rescue team might teach the team how to scuba dive, Whitehouse told the BBC. But he said that it was “hard” for even the professional divers to even get to them, let alone teach them a new and complicated skill in challenging conditions.

Around 1.5 kilometers of the route requires diving, Whitehouse said. The exact distance of the team’s route to freedom has not been well-defined, with estimates ranging from 1.2 miles to 2.4.

When asked how difficult it would be to teach the boys how to scuba dive, Whitehouse said: “Certainly not easy.”

Thailand’s Interior Minister, Anupong Paojind, said on Tuesday that the boys may need to get out using diving gear while being guided by two professional divers each, according to the Associated Press.

If something goes badly wrong, they could die.

Thai soccer team relatives stuck in caveLinh Pham/GettyRelatives of the missing boys show photos of them after the news emerged on Monday that they had been found alive.

The boys could be ‘packaged’ and pulled out by professional divers

Instead of teaching the team to scuba dive, they could be put into diving suits and carried out by professional divers, which would require much less training on their part.

Whitehouse described it as “bringing them out in packages.”

This would mean putting them in diving equipment and a full face mask and putting weights on them so they are “neutrally buoyant and aren’t going to get stuck against the roof.” The divers would then drag them through the water.

Thai Cave Map Skye Gould/Business Insider

This method is used when someone is injured or does not know how to dive.

“If you’ve got somebody who isn’t a diver and you’ve got to move them underwater, they are essentially injured in the sense that they can’t make their own way because they’re not experienced enough to do it,” Whitehouse said.

They can just wait 4 months until the monsoon season ends

Instead of getting the boys out, rescuers could simply wait for the weather to change – but it would take an extremely long time.

The Thai monsoon season, which brought the heavy rains that flooded the caves in the first place, usually lasts until late September or early October.

If they wait until then, the water levels will recede and the party could leave more or less the same way they came in. Efforts are underway to drain the cave system, but it will be hard to make much headway until the monsoon stops.

In the meantime, the boys are being sent rations and supplies to last them the four months it could take for them to see daylight again.

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