"Against All Odds - The inside account of the Thai cave rescue and the courageous Australians at the heart of it" by Craig Challen & Richard Harris with Ellis Henican
Published by Viking (an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) 5th November 2019
SB 336 pages + 8 pages of colour photos. Size 155 mm x 235 mm. ISBN: 9781760890957 AUS$34.99I just want to warn you. You’re going to dive to the end of the cave. You’re going to see these kids. They’re all looking healthy and happy and smiley. Then, you’re going to swim away, and they’re probably all going to die.
was the message from Rick Stanton to Richard "Harry" Harris as he prepared to travel out to Thailand with his friend Craig Challen. The 12 boys and their coach had already been trapped by flooding in Tham Laung Cave for over a week before they were found by British cave divers Rick Stanton & John Volanthen. The problem was now how to get them out of the cave alive - leaving them there was not an option. Rick had a plan: sedate them and dive them out trussed up & breathing from full-face masks - to all intents and purposes just like any other load that cave divers are used to moving through sumps. It was a daring idea and the authors were a central part of it - Harry is an anaesthetist and Craig a (retired) vet. They were going to put the children to sleep using drugs often administered to horses. The whole idea was based on a seal being tranquilised with ketamine and escaping into the water still under its influence - the seal was able to maintain its airway and swim around despite being asleep.
There have already been a lot of books about the Tham Luang Cave Rescue in June-July 2018. This one tells the story from Harry and Craig's perspective. The fact that they are experienced cave divers and know their stuff comes through - I've had the pleasure of meeting them in December 2018 when we went to Wookey and Swildon's (we also lost a game of Shove Ha'penny to them in The Hunters'). They've a good sense of humour too which comes across in the text. For example, having been granted diplomatic immunity the pair asked their Australian minder what crimes they might be able to get away with - littering? yes - stealing a military Humvee as their personal means of transport? - um...
Emotions run high as the medics agonise about how many children they should let die before they stop trying to dive them out. Fortunately, as everyone knows, the operation was a total success save for the loss of a Thai special forces diver who drowned during the attempt to reach the kids (and another who has since died from an infection picked up during the rescue). Sadly, Harry's elderly father died just as the operation was coming to a close - a bittersweet ending which Harry is quite candid about.
With a foreword by James Cameron this is a well written book - way better than some of the drivel that precedes it. There's a lot of technical detail as one might expect and it is not dumbed down for the average non-caving reader. Having come in part way through the rescue, the events leading up to the authors' involvement are summarised though I felt that printing the full text of every note written by the kids to the parents and vice versa did labour the point.
I'm very grateful to my good friend Ken Smith for sending me a copy from Australia, in return I've promised him a copy of Rick's book when it comes out. Until then, this is certainly the best one on the subject that I've read. Get your friends down under to do the same.