7 days in the dark: How the Thailand cave search unfolded

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7 days in the dark: How the Thailand cave search unfolded

Around 1 p.m. last Saturday, the weather was clear when Prajak Sutham, 14, Pipat Bhodi, 15, and some of their soccer teammates chained their bikes to a rail, hooked their backpacks over their shoulders, and hiked into Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the mountains of northern Thailand.

The 12 boys, members of the Wild Boars soccer team, and their 25-year-old coach, had explored inside the cave before.
Popular with tourists, it’s a place locals know well. For the first kilometer (0.6 miles) or so inside the cavernous entrance, limestone rock formations hug high ceilings, creating an almost amphitheater-like atmosphere.


TOPSHOT – Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018 during a rescue operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach. – Desperate parents led a prayer ceremony outside a flooded cave in northern Thailand where 12 children and their football coach have been trapped for days, as military rescue divers packing food rations resumed their search on June 26. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thailand Cave Rescue For Missing Soccer Team
CHIANG RAI, THAILAND – JUNE 28: British cave-diver John Volanthen walks out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in full kit without any response to reporter’s questions on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Rescuers battled heavy rain in northern Thailand as they continued the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing in Tham Luang Nang Non cave since Saturday night after monsoon rains blocked the main entrance.


Teams of Navy SEAL divers worked their way through submerged passageways in the sprawling underground caverns as senior Thai government officials warned on Wednesday that time is running out and the search intensifies for the young soccer team, aged between 11 to 16, and their their 25-year-old coach, with soldiers and park rangers seeking other entry points into the cave system. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


British cave-diver Richard William Stanton walks out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in full kit without any response to reporter’s questions on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai rescue workers practise medical drills using a helicopter in the Mae Sai district on June 30, 2018, as rescue operations continue for a missing children’s football team and their coach lost in Tham Luang cave. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


Relatives pray at a shrine on the front of Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Rescuers battle heavy rain in northern Thailand as they continued the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing in Tham Luang Nang Non cave since Saturday night after monsoon rains blocked the main entrance.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Rescuers take photos inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Rescuers battle heavy rain in northern Thailand as they continued the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing in Tham Luang Nang Non cave since Saturday night after monsoon rains blocked the main entrance.


Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha check the food that supply for the rescuers at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park after supervising rescue process inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Soldiers bring in heavy equipment to the base camp at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha (L) meets family members of missing children and their coach at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 29, 2018 during rescue operation in Tham Luang cave. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Volunteers prepare food for rescuers at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


A team of British cave-divers explores an opening in the mountain during rescue operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave, Chiang Rai province on June 29, 2018.(Photo by Krit PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


Royal Thai police rescue team prepare food packs for the missing children’s football team and their coach to be lowered in a mountain opening during rescue operation in Chiang Rai province on June 29, 2018.(Photo by Krit PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


A group of policemen takes provisions provided by volunteers at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Tham Luang Nang Non cave where a a soccer team has gone missing on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai soliders prepare food for rescue workers and volunteers near the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 29, 2018, as rescue operation continues for a missing children’s football team and their coach.(Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thai oil companty PTT personnel prepares a thermal imaging drone in the moutain of Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 28, 2018 during rescue operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave.(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thai workers & official install a new power line to Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Rescuers battle heavy rain in northern Thailand as they continued the search for 12 boys and their soccer coach who have been missing in Tham Luang Nang Non cave since Saturday night after monsoon rains blocked the main entrance. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


A group of rescuers enters Tham Luang Nang Non cave where a a soccer team has gone missing on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha speaks to the family members of the missing children and their coach at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park after supervising rescue process inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai oil companty PTT personnel prepares to launch a thermal imaging drone in the moutain of Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 28, 2018 during rescue operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave.(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Local rescuers carry equipment out of Tham Luang Nang Non cave for British cave-divers John Volanthen and Richard William Stanton on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai officials plan over a map of Tham Luang Nang Non cave to find the way to approach the missing boys on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Rescuers prepare their equipment on the next attemp to enter the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images


Relatives pray as they keep vigil near the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018 while rescue personnel conduct operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thai Muslims attend a Friday prayer in Ban Ao Manow mosque in Narthiwat province on June 29, 2018 where special prayer was made for the safety and rescue of the missing children’s football team and their coach who have been trapped in Tham Luang cave.(Photo by Madaree TOHLALA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MADAREE TOHLALA/AFP/Getty Images)


Rescuers install a water pump inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai,(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai oil companty PTT personnel prepares a thermal imaging drone in the moutain of Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 28,(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Army soldiers carry muddy boots at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Than Luang cave in Chiang Rai province on June 28, 2018 (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Volunteer paramedics wear boots in the muddy ground of their outpost at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai near the Tham Luang cave entrance on June 27, 2018 (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Relatives offer prayer near the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018 (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Relatives pray as they keep vigil near the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


TOPSHOT – Family members and relatives pray at the entrance of Tham Luang cave while rescue personnel conduct operations to find the missing members of the children’s football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / various sources / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


TOPSHOT – A family member looks at a photo of missing child while relatives keep vigil in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


A Buddhist monk and relatives pray as they keep vigil near the Tham Luang cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018(Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Buddhist monks make a praying ceremony on the entrance of Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai soldiers carry hose deep into the Tham Luang cave to pump out water at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018 (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Rescuers install a water pump inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


British cave-diver Robert Charles Harper explores an opening in the mountain during rescue operation for a missing children’s football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave, Chiang Rai province on June 29, 2018(Photo by Krit PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


A group of policemen walks out of Tham Luang Nang Non cave where a a soccer team has gone missing on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai soldiers bring Buddhist offering into Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


a foreign diver walks out of Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 29, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai rescue personnel arrive at the Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children’s football team in a cave chamber along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 25, 2018.(Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


Three British cave-divers, Richard William Stanton (2nd-L), Robert Charles Harper (3rd-L) and John Volanthen (R) arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thai rescue personnel carry oxygen tanks inside Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children’s football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


The Kelantan to Yala 4×4 off road car rally participants from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore stop to pray and form a number 13 in Narathiwat province on June 29, 2018 (Photo by Madaree TOHLALA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MADAREE TOHLALA/AFP/Getty Images)


A Thai police official show family of the missing boys the process of the rescue mission inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


US military personnel arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


US military personnel arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Than Luang cave in Chiang Rai province on June 28, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


A US military personnel arrives at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Than Luang cave in Chiang Rai province on June 28, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


Thai officers supervise the rescue mission inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Relatives and sympathizers pray on the muddy ground as they keep vigil in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai near Tham Luang cave on June 27, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


A Thai police official show family of the missing boys the process of the rescue mission inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Buddhist followers pray at the entrance of Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Rescuers prepare their equipment on the next attemp to enter the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Three British cave-divers arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018(Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)


A family member brings back a missing boy’s bicycle in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai rescue personnel carry oxygen tanks inside Tham Luang cave to conduct operations to find the missing members of the children’s football team along with their coach at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na SAKOLNAKORN / THAI NEWS PIX / AFP) (Photo credit should read KRIT PHROMSAKLA NA SAKOLNAKORN/AFP/Getty Images)


A giant driller is brought to the entrance of Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the effort of drilling into the mountain to find a way to approach the missing boys on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


A group of rescuers check the situation inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)


Thai soldiers gather in Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai on June 26, 2018(Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo credit should read LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)

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