The rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a Thai cave has captivated the world. So when billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk announced that he was going to help, some in the tech community beamed with pride. But Musk’s Thai adventure just looked more and more silly with each passing day.
Rescue chief Narongsak Osatanakorn told the BBC that “the equipment they brought to help us is not practical with our mission”. Musk’s idea for a “kid-sized” submarine had drawn ridicule from some quarters for its inability to navigate the tight spaces that the rescuers are encountering.
“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,” Osatanakorn said about Musk’s engineering team.
The boys, aged 11-16, are all members of the Wild Boars soccer team and had been trapped in the cave since June 23. The flooded 4km passage curves and becomes so tight in some areas that divers are forced to carry their oxygen tanks in front of them.
Given those constraints, a large tube such as Musk’s seems very impractical.
All 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach have now been rescued. A former Thai Navy SEAL diver, 38-year-old Saman Gunan, died on July 6 while trying to save the team.
Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, travelled to Thailand yesterday, tweeting that he was standing by in case the Thai rescuers need him. But the rescue team has more or less said “thanks, but no thanks”.
“Just returned from Cave 3,” Musk tweeted yesterday. “Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future.”
Musk’s efforts, while perhaps well-intentioned, have been met with extreme scepticism every step of the way. His attempts to brainstorm ideas on Twitter were particularly strange to some observers.
“With all due respect to Mr Musk, I am not sure that he or his engineers have a real good handle on exactly what they’re dealing with in this particular situation,” Anmar Mirza from the National Speleological Society’s National Cave Rescue Commission recently told Slate.
As if it wasn’t a circus already, Hollywood producers are reportedly in Thailand hoping to secure rights for the story. According to the BBC, a US company called Pure Flix has sent producers Michael Scott and Adam Smith to the area.
“There’s going to be other production companies coming in so we have to act pretty quickly,” Smith reportedly said.
It seems like nobody is willing to let a good disaster go to waste.