The Thai Navy SEALs have released video on their Facebook page giving us a glimpse of just how difficult and dangerous their rescue mission was as they raced to save 13 members of a boys soccer team trapped in a flooded cave.
The world watched as close to 1,000 rescue experts spent three days retrieving the 12 boys and their coach, stranded after heavy rains and floods trapped them inside Thailand's longest cave for several weeks.
The video shows Thai Navy divers in knee-deep muddy waters preparing their gear, which included oxygen tanks, ropes, harnesses and stretchers.
High water levels, narrow passageways and muddy conditions made the rescue all the more difficult and dangerous. In fact, one retired Thai SEAL died in the rescue effort.
"The cave was unlike anything we had ever experienced, it was so dark," Apakorn Youkongkaew, a rear admiral in the Thai Navy, told news agencies.
Facing the potential of more heavy rains, flooding and falling oxygen levels inside the cave, rescuers revealed just how close the mission came to disaster.
The Thai military said the main pump that had been siphoning millions of gallons of rain water out of the cave failed just as rescuers extracted the soccer coach and final remaining four boys.
"It's lucky we completed our mission yesterday, because the cave is covered by water again today," Yookongkaew said on Wednesday.
Fast-moving currents inside the cave made the task all the more perilous, prompting rescuers to almost scrap the mission because of the dangers posed to the divers.
"We have done something that no one expected that we could complete," Narongsak Osottanakorn, the chief of the operation, told reporters at a news conference. "It was an impossible mission."
Footage shows members of the soccer team sedated and strapped to stretchers as rescuers used pulleys, ropes and other climbing equipment to ferry the boys to safety through dangerously narrow passageways.
The daring rescue mission started last Sunday, when the first four boys were extracted from the cave. Four more were brought out on Monday, and the operation finally ended Tuesday with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.
The video of the rescue, which was posted to the Thai Navy's official Facebook page, was shared nearly 40,000 times at the time of writing, racked up a whopping 1.7 million views, and included thousands of comments praising the rescuers heroic efforts.
On Wednesday, Thailand's government released the first images of the boys recovering in a hospital following their 18-day ordeal underground.