Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has devised a plan that could help rescue the remaining boys still trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in Thailand.
Musk’s SpaceX rocket company is testing a “tiny kid-sized submarine” that he believes will help free the children.
The mini-sub was being tested in California and, if successful, it will be flown on a 17-hour flight to Thailand, a spokesman for Musk’s Boring Co said, adding that Thai officials had requested the device.
The mini-sub is a metal cylinder that’s almost two-metres long. It is outfitted with oxygen ports and a nose cone that will protect the device from any impact with rocks.
Videos of the testing posted to Twitter show the mini-sub manoeuvring narrow passageways.
Twelve boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach became trapped in the cave in Chiang Rai on June 23.
Four of the boys were rescued on Sunday and authorities are now working to replenish air tanks along the cave’s treacherous exit route. They say rescuing the eight remaining boys and their soccer coach could take up to four days.
Simulating maneuvering through a narrow passage pic.twitter.com/2z01Ut3vxJ
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
The mini-sub would potentially help children through narrow, flooded cave passageways. Some of the jagged passageways are only 60-centimetres wide.
Musk says the sub would be light enough to be carried by two divers and small enough to get through narrow cave gaps.
The spokesman for Musk’s Boring Co tunnelling unit said four engineers were at the cave and “offering support in any way the government deems useful”.
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Six Australian Federal Police divers are also supporting the Thai Navy in the rescue mission, together with a liaison officer and interpreter.
The divers formed part of the ‘daisy chain’ of rescuers who led the four boys to the surface on Sunday.
A South Australian anaesthetist and experienced diver Richard Harris was part of the medical team that determined the boys’ fitness to undertake the arduous four-kilometre journey.
Cave rescue experts consider an underwater escape to be a last resort, especially with people untrained in diving.
The death of former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, on Friday, underscored the risks. The diver, the first fatality of the rescue effort, was working in a volunteer capacity and died on a mission to place oxygen canisters along the route.