In June 2018, for seventeen days, the world watched and held its breath as the Wild Boars soccer team were trapped deep in a cave in Thailand. Marooned beyond flooded cave passages after unexpected rains, they were finally rescued, one-by-one, against almost impossible odds, by an international cave-diving team which included Australians Dr Richard Harris and Dr Craig Challen. We were all glued to our various screens watching this rescue take place and then most of us read or watched at least some of the press afterwards. We feel like we know this story already, so it’s no easy feat writing a book about the rescue that offers not only a fresh perspective but also keeps us on the edge of our seat. Against All Odds achieves this. I was absolutely riveted, glued to this heart-pounding book as if the outcome could possibly change.
This is the inside account of the breathtaking rescue that captured the world. It is the story of two Australian men who became international heroes. Harris and Challen were chosen for their medical expertise and cave diving knowledge. Harris is an anaesthetist, Challen a veterinary surgeon. They are also two of a very small population of experienced cave divers in the world.
“But why would anyone want to dive in a cave?
We’ve been getting that question for years. I used to say: ‘If you need to ask the question, you wouldn’t understand the answer.’”
One of the truly fascinating aspects of this book are the descriptions around deep cave dives. I quickly surmised that you couldn’t pay me to explore the places they’re compelled to explore, but I was glued to the page. The description of them recovering the body of a fellow diver is harrowing and sets up the seriousness of the situation with the young boys.
The rescue itself is utterly gripping. Challen and Harris had to remain calm under extreme pressure and intense scrutiny, adapt to constantly changing circumstances and importantly, build trust among the rescue team and with the young boys and their coach, whose lives were in their hands. Daring decisions about how to get the boys out were made, and the weight of that at the time is obvious reading this.
“I 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.”
This is a story of determination, cunning and triumph that will long be remembered. It’s the real story, not the one fed to us by the media at the time. It’s personal – the passion for this adrenaline sport, how their family dealt with their involvement in this rescue, and the death of Richard Harris’s father when he was celebrating the final rescue.
As a child I was obsessed with reading stories of great survival – This is the closest I’ve come in recent years to that feeling of pure fascination and thrill. I loved this book. It’s well written and perfectly paced, covers a fascinating subject and hooks you in from the word go. I was flipping pages until the very end, praying those boys would be rescued again. I hope I’m not ruining the ending by telling you they were.
Compulsive, fascinating… highly recommended.
About the authors
Richard ‘Harry’ Harris SC OAM is an Australian anaesthetist and cave diver who played a crucial role in the Tham Luang cave rescue. He and Craig Challen were jointly awarded 2019 Australian of the Year as a result of that rescue.
Craig Challen SC OAM is an Australian veterinary surgeon, technical diver and cave explorer. He was the recipient of the Oztek 2009 Diver of the Year award for his services to caving, and was jointly awarded 2019 Australian of the Year.