Imagine being completely enveloped in darkness, with nothing to guide you through but a line you’re pulling hand over hand to arrive at your destination.
Lose the line, and you’re lost.
That’s how Erik Brown summed up his experience helping to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave in Thailand’s Chiang Rai region.
The diver, who was raised in Langley, B.C., told Global News about the role he played in the unprecedented rescue effort in Thailand.
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The divers, foreign and Thai, navigated the 4-kilometre long stretch using an elaborate rope-and-pulley system installed to pull the boys and their coach from the cave.
Brown, and a friend, arrived the day the boys were found huddled with their soccer coach inside the cave.
His job involved supporting the efforts of Thai Navy SEALs and a team from the U.K.
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He assisted in laying tanks and lines inside the cave’s narrow chambers, in an effort to expedite the rescue, he told Global News.
“The job changed sort of daily,” he said.
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Brown called the rescue a mission in which “every single challenge you can throw at a diver was there.”
“We had low visibility, long hikes in, super narrow channels, no communications,” he said.
The cave was so dark that “you can’t see your hands in front of your face,” he added.
Brown had been diving for over a decade, but even all his training didn’t prepare him for an experience like this.
“I’ll never have a dive like this again, that’s for sure,” he said.
With darkness and a strong current in the water, he called it one of the “most challenging dives I’ve done for sure.”
Coverage of the Thailand cave rescue on Globalnews.ca:
In total, he spent nine days on the mission, including 63 hours inside the cave itself.
But how did he keep calm while he was in there?
Brown said you have to “turn your brain off a little bit.”
“You have to focus on the minor task you have, try to put the sort of grand scale off to the side a little bit,” he said.
Stories have characterized Brown as a hero for his role in the mission. But he’s quick to eschew the label.
“There’s plenty more people who deserve that label than me,” Brown said.
“I just tried to do the best I can with my skill set.”