Thai Cave Rescue: How Elon Musk's Boring Company Could Help Free the Boys

Musk said he was "happy to help if there is a way to do so."

The 12 Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave with their football coach have been found, but their path to rescue remains dire. There’s no escape route by foot, so experts have proposed two options: waiting until the flood waters recede, or teaching the boys how to swim their way out.

One Twitter user tweeted at the billionaire entrepreneur Tuesday requesting he “assist in anyway [sic]” with the rescue of the young team and its 25-year-old coach. Musk responded to the tweet Wednesday, writing: “I suspect that the Thai govt has this under control, but I’m happy to help if there is a way to do so.” He followed up with another tweet early Thursday morning, writing that The Boring Company — his 2-year-old infrastructure and tunnel engineering venture — is “pretty good at digging holes.”

Boring Co has advanced ground penetrating radar & is pretty good at digging holes. Don’t know if pump rate is limited by electric power or pumps are too [small]. If so, could dropship fully charged Powerpacks and pumps.

Certainly, digging through the cave walls has occurred to Thailand’s team of over a thousand officials and experts.

Tham Luang Nang Non cave rescue operation in Thailand.

CBC News

How Can the Thai Cave Kids Be Rescued?

The team of 11- to 16-year-old boys and its 25-year-old assistant football coach have now been trapped in the six-mile Tham Luang Nang Non cave for 12 days. They are all alive, but medical assessments show it is too dangerous to attempt to move all 13 out of the cave, especially since two boys and their coach are suffering from exhaustion due to malnutrition.

Thai Navy SEALs have begun to pump oxygen into the chamber the boys are located in, alongside continued efforts to pump ground and flood waters out. But with more rain expected this weekend, it’s paramount that rescuers extract the team as quickly as possible.

It takes six hours for trained divers to reach the group by navigating flooded passageways, and an additional five hours to exit. After being found by a duo of British diving experts on Monday, supplies and medical equipment have been delivered, and efforts to create a line of communication for the boys and their parents is still underway.

SEALs have begun diving instructions for full face masked-swimming, but teams are also searching for other entry points through natural chimneys that wouldn’t require digging a shaft to the surface. One expert said getting the boys out through the water could result in fatalities. Enter Musk’s drilling expertise.

Elon Musk's The Boring Company has begun research on drilling passenger tunnels for public transportation purposes, like this planned tunnel.

What Could Elon Musk Do to Save the Thai Cave Kids?

First, it’s worth noting that the entrepreneur of mu Space Corps, a Thailand-based satellite communications provider, tweeted a few hours after Musk’s response that SpaceX had reached out to his company in order to connect with the Thai government, so plans for Musk’s tunneling equipment reaching Tham Luang Nang Non may already be in motion. As for how digging holes may help the kids, it’s one dangerous but feasible option for escape.

Drilling would put the humans below at risk of being crushed by debris or further trapped by fallen rock, but it could also offer a faster solution than learning to dive and in order to swim out of the cave. And if authorities fail in that respect, the group of 13 could be trapped for months as the result of continued monsoon flooding.

Additional power for pumps, along with bigger machinery, were two suggestions Musk offered, along with the ability to fly in the necessary technology. If enough water can be pumped out quickly, the boys could just walk out of the cave. Currently, more than 31 million gallons have already been removed, and additional rock needs to be drilled to allow for pumps to reach the interior. That’s another problem Musk and his team’s engineering skills could assist with.

One thing is for certain: It’s a race against time to bring the young team home to safety, and any additional resources to expedite the process would likely be welcome.

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