By Amanda Froelich,
Since June 23, a group of 12 soccer players and their coach, known as The Wild Boars, have been trapped 2.5 miles inside a flooded cave. Fortunately, they are safe. The bad news is that there is no obvious way for them to escape the Tham Luang cave, located in northern Thailand.
The Thai government has launched a plan to pump water out of the flooded cave. But because it’s monsoon season, it could take several months to provide safe passage for the boys and their coach. This is why Elon Musk and a team of engineers are brainstorming — and taking action — to help the stranded team.
You might be thinking, “Why don’t they teach the boys to hold their breathe and dive?” As Futurism points out, the answer isn’t so simple. Recently, an ex-Navy SEAL diver died from lack of oxygen while attempting to help the boys. If the narrow passages (some which are as small as 70 cm (27.5 inches) wide and flooded sections of 30 meters (98 feet) were too difficult for the experienced diver, they will likely be too demanding for young boys.
After contemplating ways to assist The Wild Boars, Elon Musk revealed his plans in a series of Tweets on Twitter. His goal is to send a team of SpaceX and Boring Company engineers to assess the flooded cave in-person.
SpaceX & Boring Co engineers headed to Thailand tomorrow to see if we can be helpful to govt. There are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2018
Musk wrote: “Boring Co has advanced ground penetrating radar & is pretty good at digging holes.” There are potential challenges with drilling, however, such as exposing the boys to additional dangers, like cave-ins and falling rocks.
Another plan, presently being carried out by the Thai government, is to pump the water out of the cave. But, the current rate of 180,000 liters an hour means it will likely take up to four months to reach the boys.
This image makes it simple. Critical 70cm area is at the center. Several dives and two rest areas in between before getting to strong 13 Thais. You probably need several inserts if going with air funnel solution pic.twitter.com/1Pz6vd7U4N
— James Yenbamroong (@JamesWorldSpace) July 6, 2018
After mulling over the situation on Twitter, Musk came up with another plan: let the boys and their coach slide right out. All they would need is a gigantic inflatable nylon tube, 1 meter (39 inches) in diameter and over 2 km (approximately 1 mile) long. The tube would be inflated like a bouncy castle, creating a tunnel. The boys would be able to escape through the passageway as water was pushed to the sides.
Musk admits that any rescue would not be simple. And indeed, with his last plan there are still flaws. For instance, what if the tube ruptures while the boys are inside it? Or, how can the engineers ensure the tube remains intact the entire length of the cave? Furthermore, without a breathing apparatus, the boys are prone to get “the bends” (similar to divers), which may exacerbate anxiety.
With 13 lives at stake, is now the time to test out such experimental technology? Comment your thoughts below and share this news!