Over the 12 days of Christmas, HuffPost UK is hosting a series of blogs from people at the centre of 2018′s biggest news stories. Today, caving expert Vernon Unsworth writes on his role in one the most tense, uplifting stories of the year, the Tham Luang cave rescue. To find out more about the series, follow our hashtag #HuffPost12Days
In June this year, a good friend of mine, and fellow caver, Rob Harper, spent a month in Thailand, where I live. We caved on many of his days here, including trips to Pua in Nan Province and a cave called Tham Luang – little did he know we would soon be back.
I’m not a cave diver as such, I’m what you would call a caving expert, having been in the ‘sport’ since I was sixteen. I have always enjoyed the exploration of caves, and of finding new passages that no one has ventured into before.
When Rob had left each other on Wednesday 20 June in Phayao province, between us we agreed it would be a good idea for me to do a solo exploration trip into Tham Luang later that month. All my caving gear and lights were already prepared but unfortunately a border run to extend my visa meant I had to delay my start – otherwise it’s likely I would have gone into Tham Luang on the very same day as a group of 13 boys and their football coach I would soon need to help rescue. Spooky or what.
Come early Sunday morning, my partner Tik began receiving calls from a number of people telling her there was a situation in Tham Luang – and that they needed my help, urgently. Little did I know what I was getting into.
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The first four days of the operation were, for me, especially difficult. On the first day at the cave alone, I had to make five trips in and out of the now famous Sam Yek junction, totalling roughly 20km of caving. I chose to make three of those trips on my own, simply…