A caving expedition gone horribly awry is a familiar trope in films and fiction, a survival thriller offering a mix of gut-wrenching drama, harrowing suspense and eventual redemption and release. Yet, nothing can match up to a real-life story of resilience and human enterprise. The unintended incarceration of a Thai soccer team and its coach in the Tham Luang Nang Non caves in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, and, their eventual rescue, proves that once more. The 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, members of the Wild Boars soccer team, and their assistant coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, had reportedly entered the caves after practice on June 23 for a trek when monsoon rains flooded several chambers, making escape impossible. Since then, trapped in darkness on a thin ledge for over two weeks, surviving on water from stalactite formations even as water levels rose from the monsoon rains and oxygen levels depleted, the boys have awaited rescue, made all the more difficult by inclement weather conditions.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that adversity brings out the best in some people. Even as the boys kept their morale up, meditating and encouraging each other to hang in there, the precarious rescue operations mounted to get them back to safety saw an unprecedented level of international co-operation. Domain experts from several countries — British diving experts, para-rescue team from the US Indo-Pacific command, military personnel from Australia and specialists from Japan, China and Israel, American billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk with his impractical mini submarine — came together with an elite team of Thai Navy SEALs to negotiate the labyrinthine passages that would lead them to the boys.
Now, with the worst behind them, as the 13 rescued members recover in isolation, it would be a good time to reflect on the nature of this miracle, wrought once again not just by the indomitable human spirit to overcome adversities, but also by the power of co-operation that can move mountains and offer respite from a rock and a hard place.