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Chiang Rai

Return to Tham Luang Cave – a personal perspective

The Thaiger

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Return to Tham Luang Cave – a personal perspective | The Thaiger

by guest writer Mikko Paasi

Now that is has been a year since the successful rescue of the Thai football team and their coach from the Tham Luang cave, I think it would be appropriate to share some footage from inside the cave to show how it looks like after the operation and without the muddy water.

As we know, the 13 kids got out just in time before the cave system flooded again. A few rescuers ended up having to hold our breath to dive out to safety. The cave then stayed flooded for 9 months, until March this year, after which we could finally reach the chamber where the team took shelter for 17 days waiting to get out.

After a week of diving the cave system last year in zero visibility, I had absolutely no idea how the restrictions looked like or how was the chamber where the boys stayed nor did I know if there would have been alternative route to the kids. I had my head full of questions that needed answers so that I could get peace of mind.

Read his full account with lots of videos HERE.

When I heard in January that there was a plan to attempt to re-enter the cave, I volunteered immediately. I was called in, together with cave experts Vern Unsworth and Joshua Morris, a Thai Navy SEAL, local park rangers, and other rescue personnel, to survey the cave conditions and document the massive amount of equipment left behind when the floodwaters forced us out.

Inside the cave, there was literally tonnes and tonnes of all sorts of equipment that was used to keep the water levels down and support the diving attempts during the rescue. We found tens of kilometres of different kinds of hoses, zip lines, electric lines, telephone lines, hundreds of air cylinders (there was even one tank still jammed in the cave ceiling reminding us of the power of the floodwaters), dive equipment, industrial pumps, tools etc. I also found some of our team’s equipment that we left behind, but this time we were not allowed to touch anything.

Return to Tham Luang Cave - a personal perspective | News by The Thaiger

“Those who say it cannot be done, shouldn’t interrupt people doing it” – 13 kids all out safe and sound!

To our surprise, once we got to the T-junction (about 1.7 km in) we found out that the passage leading to the chambers #7, #8, and #9 was still blocked by the floodwaters after 7 months and we didn’t get the permission to dive in so we had to turn around to come back another time.

We had gathered enough information on the state of the cave by now, so the Army could start forming a plan on how to move the equipment out and clean the cave, so that it could be opened to the public again next year.

The next attempt to get to the last chamber was planned for March, and the removal of the equipment would start then. By March the water level had dropped down enough to allow us to go further, but the Navy SEALs hit a dead-end approximately 2 km in, near the chamber #8. The sand level at that area had risen so high that it had blocked the whole cave system and there was no way in.

Our team was called in again, but this time to find a way through the sediment and to connect the now separated systems together.

Once again, I flew to Chiang Rai where Vern picked me up. We drove to Mae Sai, met up with Josh and his team of cavers from CMRCA, formed a plan and went in. This time we entered the cave with shovels. The plan was simple, we will dig our way in.

By the time we got to the cave, most of the equipment had been taken out. We found it fairly easy to get to the end of the cave where the sand met the ceiling.

To me it looked like there was no way of finding the right place to start digging. We had no idea if we would need to dig 10 or 100 meters to get through. Fortunately, for Vern and Josh, this wasn’t the first time in this kind of situation. After a little sniffing around the corners, they gave me a shovel and told me to ”start digging, get us out of here”! This would be my final test to earn my dry caver wings.

Over four hours and about 15 metres of digging later, we pushed through to the other side. Now the cave was reconnected again. Never have I ever felt more claustrophobic than here, digging my way through sand and mud, 2 kilometres inside a mountain, in a space the size of a coffin, with almost no air to breathe… not even when I was diving this same spot months ago.

Finally we were all through, and could find the way into the ”Sam Sao”, the chamber where the kids stayed.

The sand level was so high that it was impossible to recognise any of the places. We also realised that it would have been completely impossible to keep the children alive, and the life-line open to them, during the long monsoon, had they been left inside to wait for the cave to dry.

Once we reached the last chamber, we were greeted by a flashback of memories on what happened here in June/July last year. To our surprise, the chamber was at Pattaya beach and not after it, as told by many stories. Also, the size of the chamber was a surprise! How giant it was, measuring over 50 metres in length and over 10 metres in height, giving the kids plenty of dry ground to stay on. Everything was intact with all the space foils, air tanks, and other rescue equipment all over the place.

At the upper end of the chamber, there was a 6 metre deep hand dug tunnel, a desperate attempt to escape. Right next to it, there was a simple altar with some decorations and a 20 baht note that the boys had offered to the spirits to help them get out.

I remember thinking that this note did its job and was well spent, since here we are now. The youngest of the boys is now 12 and living his life fully. We took that note back, and it is now on display at the Rescue Museum in Mae Sai.

On the next day, we returned to the chamber. This time with the Navy SEALs and one of the boys, who was kind enough to tell us their story while sitting in the actual spot where it all happened. You can only imagine the emotions going through us at that time.

Later that day, we walked to the far end of the cave to discover many writings on the walls. These were writings by the desperate team of 13 young boys trapped in the dark.

As a conclusion for my search of answers, I can now say that the restrictions in the cave during the dive were pretty damn narrow. Even if at some point there would have been more space, we always had to push through and follow the line, we could not let go of the line. Also just the sheer amount of sand in the cave after the monsoon would have made the access to the kids impossible, had they been left there over the rainy season. And last, seeing the chamber #9 and its size makes it easier to understand how the kids were able to survive through the 17 days.

We got a million other answers too, learned a lot about the situation and I got to document the whole cave system during those first visits back to the cave. However, I will keep the secrets to myself, for now.

Amazing being the first ones in Sam Sao (9th chamber) after the rescue operation.

Return to Tham Luang Cave - a personal perspective | News by The Thaiger

Most of our ‘Euro Trash Team’ – Erik Brown, Mikko Paasi, Ivan Karadzic, Claus Rasmunssen, Ruengrit Changkwanyuen, Narinthorn Na Bangchang and Ben Raymenants. Missing from the pic: Bruce, Chang, Maksym, Seva, Nick and Por

Return to Tham Luang Cave - a personal perspective | News by The Thaiger

Hero Saman Kunan – Thai cave rescue. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten. RIP Saman Kunan.

Written by Mikko Paasi
PS. Start young and never stop exploring.

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Chiang Mai

Earthquake could hit Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

Greeley Pulitzer

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Earthquake could hit Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai | The Thaiger

A magnitude 4.1 tremor shook seven districts of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai on Friday night, prompting the Department of Mineral Resources to warn that the two northern provinces could face a magnitude 5 earthquake within ten years.

The prediction is based on analysis of movements in the Mae Tha fault lines, including the 5.1 ML quake in December 2006, centred under the Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai.

Geological studies in Ban Pong Samakkhi, Chiang Mai, indicate that the area experienced a 5.9 ML quake about 2,000 years ago.

Earthquake could hit Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai | News by The Thaiger

Photo : earthquake.tmd.go.th

Friday’s temblor occurred at 9:46 pm, with its epicentre about six kilometres below the surface in Doi Saked district.

The tremor was felt in the Muang, Prao, San Sai, Doi Saket and Hang Dong districts of Chiang Mai and Wiang Papao district of Chiang Rai, though there have been no reports of casualties or property damage.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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Chiang Mai

Jump in national park visitor numbers as ‘winter’ arrives in northern Thailand

May Taylor

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Jump in national park visitor numbers as ‘winter’ arrives in northern Thailand | The Thaiger

As northern Thailand moves into the ‘cold season’ (well, cold for Thailand) and temperatures drop, national park officials are reporting an increase in visitor numbers. Whilst the temperature is cooling down on the local northern mountain tops, the ground level temperatures are still around 30 (forecast below). But later in December the temperatures sometime reach as low as zero for places like Doi Inthanon.

The Bangkok Post is reporting that Kritsayam Khongsatri, Head of Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai says the park welcomed 21,994 visitors over the recent long weekend, over 7,000 a day.

Kritsayam says most of the visitors are Thais who enjoy camping in the colder weather, with average temperatures at the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, being just 5-11 degrees Celsius.

Khao Yai National Park, north east of Bangkok, has also seen a significant increase in visitor numbers, with wild elephants coming out from the jungle to feel the warmth of the sun as temperatures dropped to below 20 Celsius yesterday.

“Visitors to the park are being asked to refrain from using car horns, or bright lights such as flashing cameras and full beam headlights to avoid disturbing the resident elephants.”

Winter in northern Thailand typically sees a dip in temperatures and a decline in rainfall coupled with strengthening winds from the north.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Jump in national park visitor numbers as 'winter' arrives in northern Thailand | News by The Thaiger Jump in national park visitor numbers as 'winter' arrives in northern Thailand | News by The Thaiger

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Chiang Rai

Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller on site during the filming of The Cave – AFP

Determined divers racing against time. Rising waters threatening lives. 12 teenagers and their soccer coach trapped inside for two weeks. A remote cave that most had never heard of.

The stuff of a Hollywood drama, except that it’s all true and happened in Chiang Rai last year. Now the first of several re-tellings of the story comes to the big screen in The Cave.

The ordeal in late June and early July last year had barely ended when filmmakers began their own race to get the nail-biting drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects premiered at the start of October, when director Tom Waller’s The Cave showed at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

The film was shot over three months earlier this year and has been in post-production since then. The 45 year old Thai-British filmmaker says the epic tale of the Wild Boars (Mu Pa) football team was a story he simply had to tell.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet.”

The 13 young men entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. The boys were forced to spend nine nights lost in the cave, whilst Navy Seal and other diver searched frantically, before they were spotted by a British diver.

It would take another eight days before they were all safe, against all odds, in a risky mission.

Waller was visiting his father in Ireland when he saw television news accounts of the drama.

“I thought this would be an amazing story to tell on screen.”

But putting the parts together after their dramatic rescue proved to be a challenge. Thailand’s government, led by the military NCPO, became very protective of the story, barring unauthorised access to the Mu Pa team or their parents. Waller often feared his production might be shut down.

His good fortune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province had multiple angles and interesting characters. Especially compelling were the stories of the rescuers, particularly the expert divers who rallied from around the world. He decided to make a film “about the volunteer spirit of the rescue.”

Other people proposed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Netflix nailed down those rights in a deal brokered by the Thai government.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet. They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that that was more of an exciting story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out.”

Waller even had more than a dozen key rescue personnel play themselves.

Waller said they were natural actors, blending in almost seamlessly with the professionals around them, and helped by the accuracy of the settings and the production’s close attention to detail.

“What you are really doing is asking them to remember what they did and to show us what they were doing and what they were feeling like at the time. That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real.”

Waller says his film is likely to have a visceral effect on some viewers, evoking a measure of claustrophobia.

“It’s a sort of immersive experience with the sound of the environment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the water is not clear.”

“In Hollywood films, when they do underwater scenes, everything is crystal clear. But in this film it’s murky and I think that’s the big difference. This film lends itself to being more of a realistic portrayal of what happened.”

Some scenes were filmed on location at the entrance to the actual Tham Luang cave, but most of the action was shot elsewhere.

“We filmed in real water caves that were flooded, all year-round. It is very authentic in terms of real caves, real flooded tunnels, real divers and real creepy-crawlies in there. So it was no mean feat trying to get a crew to go and film in these caves.”

The Cave goes on general release in Thailand on November 28.

ORIGINAL ARTICE: Associated Press | Time.com

Journey back to Tham Luang in 'The Cave' - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller – Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit

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