I was there to film the cave rescuers' unbelievable bravery
SA video journalist enthuses about the rescuers, saying he was honoured to witness an 'incredible human story'
Mud and mosquitoes were the only “real dangers” that a Cape Town cave diver and video journalist faced as he captured the dramatic journey to freedom of the 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a flooded cave.
Jason Boswell travelled to northern Thailand two weeks ago to join a team of BBC correspondents covering the cave rescue that gripped the world.
The boys, who are between 11 and 16 years old, and their coach ventured into the Tham Luang cave in mountainous northern Thailand on June 23. They were trapped when rain caused flooding, blocking their escape and forcing them to take shelter on a muddy ledge.They spent nine days in darkness until two British divers found them.
However, the escape route was a challenge for even experienced divers. The boys had no previous diving experience so the rescuers trained them how to use a mask and breathe under water with an oxygen tank.
The boys and their coach were released from hospital on Wednesday before a press conference, where they told journalists about their amazing story of survival.
Boswell said he felt honoured to witness and cover “this incredible human story”.“I had worked for the BBC for nearly four years as a video journalist and camera operator and the bureau chief based in Nairobi, Kenya knew I was a trained cave diver.
“I had just came back from a three-week assignment in northern KwaZulu-Natal and was relaxing at home after a dive off of the kelp forests in Simon’s Town when he called me and asked if I would be interested in joining the team in Thailand.
“Then, barely six hours later I was on a plane headed to Chiang Mai,” Boswell, who arrived back in SA on Sunday, recounted.Boswell was assigned to do camera work for the BBC’s Myanmar correspondent, Nick Beake, capturing footage as the rescue unfolded and doing live crossings from outside the hospital where the boys and the coach were treated.
He said the only “real danger” the media faced was slipping in the mud outside the cave or being bitten by mosquitoes.
It was the rescue team who encountered “some unbelievable dangers”.
“Operating in a cave under water is possibly one of the most hazardous environments you can imagine – the team would need to work in tight spaces.
“I heard the one space they had to navigate was less than a metre high between the roof of the cave and the floor – the divers would literally be crawling on their bellies in the dark, feeling their way along a line in dirty water while trying to make sure they have enough gas to get in, and out, of the cave.
“The water was flowing so strongly in certain sections of the cave that it pulled their masks from their faces and jammed the divers into small constrictions in the cave.
“When you’re cave diving you always use a line to help navigate out. This is a literal lifeline as without it you’d be utterly lost.“One of the divers apparently lost this line after the current forced him off while he was carrying one of the children out, and it took him four long minutes to find this line in the dark, swirling waters of the cave.
“In addition to there being no natural light for the divers to use, the water itself was incredibly murky, and even with lights the divers at times could only see a few inches in front of them.”
Boswell said the divers pulled off “an incredibly difficult and technical mountain rescue, except they did it underground, in the dark, in raging currents of murky water”.