Thai Cave Rescue Media Coverage: Notable for the Most Part

adsit80By John Adsit
Educational Consultant

The whole world watched in fascination as a massive international rescue team worked to pull off an unprecedented rescue of a soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand. I watched from the perspective of a cave diver, a former journalism instructor, and a diving instructor. One of the talks I have had on and off for the last few years has been to help investigate and write reports on cave diving fatalities for the National Speleological Society, and from that perspective it was refreshing to watch a scenario that ended so happily, for that is not the norm for cave diving incidents.

The result of the rescue was, of course, wonderful, but in reflecting on some of the elements I observed from afar, I believe there was a whole lot that went very well in that situation in addition to the happy ending. I saw a lot of appropriate and professional behavior on the part of a number of parties, and because of it the few bad moments stand out in stark contrast.

In the social media I followed, one of the questions that was raised on several occasions was why there was not more commentary from the true experts on cave rescues around the world. To me, that lack of commentary was a positive highlight. After my ETC article (7/4/18), I was contacted by the BBC and asked to sit for an interview. I declined. I explained that I lacked the expertise to speak on an issue of that complexity—my article about the education aspects was the limit to which I could speak with authority.

Edd Sorenson, the Safety Director for the National Speleological Society—Cave Diving Section, was a model of the kind of media restraint I found so remarkable in this case.

One expert who was interviewed was Edd Sorenson, the Safety Director for the National Speleological Society—Cave Diving Section. He is truly one of the most accomplished divers in the world in terms of cave rescue. He gave an interview to CNN, and in doing so he was a model of the kind of restraint I found so remarkable in this case. He openly acknowledged that the cave divers on the scene were among the very best in the world, and they had direct eyes on the details he could not know. It would not be appropriate, then, for him to speculate and make suggestions from afar. He was willing to explain what he saw happening, but that was as far as he was willing to go.

The restraint he showed is simply not the norm in the cave diving community. In the aftermath of rescue attempts (which rarely succeed) and body recoveries (much more common), the second-guessing and pontificating about what should or should not have been done begins immediately. Perhaps it is the memory of such events in their own lives that led Sorenson and other top names in cave rescue to show the respect to the rescuers on scene that they have not always received themselves.

I saw this first hand when I was diving with Sorenson, and we became involved with a near fatality in another party as we exited the cave. We helped get the victim to the hospital, and Edd immediately supervised the investigation of the incident, with the police taking notes as he did. The next day, the cave diving social media featured completely erroneous reports on the incident that were written by people who were not remotely in the vicinity of the incident. Those false reports led to a lot of unfortunate speculation and anger.

Much of the problems of this nature result from grandstanding, the need some people have to thrust themselves into the story and take credit that rightfully belongs to others. Once again, there was remarkably little of that at Tham Luang. People seemed very content to give the rescuers all the credit they so richly deserved. I was annoyed by one cave diver who not only gave a series of interviews but felt compelled to post links to those interviews on his FaceBook page—but that was unusual.

The most startling exception to that was most notable for how the Internet responded. A branch of an agency named Unified Team Diving, UTD Asia, made a deceptive FaceBook post about half way through the actual rescues. Using a diagram of the rescue efforts published elsewhere, they made a very carefully worded post that implied to anyone not reading the grammatical structure carefully that they were involved in the rescue and that their signature equipment design was being used because it was the right tool for the job. None of that was true. After one congratulatory post by someone who had obviously been fooled, they were flooded with condemnation in the strongest possible language. They then completely rewrote the post, and when the condemnation did not end, they removed it completely. Their misguided attempt to capitalize on the rescue was a complete failure.

As a former journalism teacher, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the media response. Oh, there were false reports and misinformation, but not nearly as much as I would have expected given the misinformation frenzies that are so typically associated with major news events. Perhaps credit can go to the way the information was controlled at the site itself, but for whatever the reason, most stories were reasonably accurate.

The one area in which reporting could be improved in all stories throughout the world related to diving was particularly maddening in this story, and that is the misidentification of what divers breathe as “oxygen.” Divers rarely breathe pure oxygen under water; doing so below 20 feet can be fatal. Reporters so routinely refer to the compressed air divers usually breathe as “oxygen” that we normally ignore it. In this unusual case, though, there were times in this rescue that the use of oxygen might be appropriate. We saw a video in which a truck arrived at the scene filled with oxygen supply tanks. What was that for? How was it being used? Because of the constant misuse of the term “oxygen” by reporters throughout the ordeal, no one really knows when they really did mean oxygen rather than air.

So a youth soccer team went for an exploration of a popular cave and ended up being the subjects of one of the greatest rescue efforts in my memory. They were rescued by a well-coordinated effort by true experts. I look forward to the time when the full details of those efforts are released, but in the meantime, I am also going to take time to give the kudos to the good behavior of those who watched it all in rapt wonder.
Related article by John Adsit: Thailand Cave Rescue via Diving Is a Daunting Challenge (7/4/18).

Science Is Not the Friend of Thai Cave Soccer Team

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor
& President of SmartScience

Spending two weeks in a cave that has been sealed off by water is no one’s idea of fun. There’s no food but plenty of water. This cave portion appears to be fairly large, large enough to have plenty of air for a long stay, but that air is running out.

Thirteen people, twelve of them children, are stuck and isolated under very dangerous circumstances. They face several perils: oxygen, carbon dioxide, food, and even waste treatment.

Detailed map of the Tham Luang cave system provided by BBC News.

What happens when someone seals you into a box? You use up the oxygen there, turning it one-to-one into carbon dioxide. That’s what all animals do. Even plants do it when there’s no sunlight. It’s called respiration. In that box, you will rapidly drop the oxygen level to below the 16% that we must have to function normally, and that’s 5% below the usual 21% we are used to.

Long before you reach 16% oxygen, you will raise the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) from 0.04% up to 1%. At that level, you will feel the effects of hypercapnia as your blood pH drops into an area that prevents many of your cellular processes from functioning properly. First, you may feel a bit woozy, but soon you will lose consciousness and then die.

The same thing might happen in a cave, but that Thai cave has a silver lining. The same thing that trapped them there has saved them from hypercapnia — the water. It’s flowing water, and CO2 dissolves fairly readily in water and is carried off away from the trapped children and coach. Unfortunately, the incoming water does not bring enough oxygen to replace what they are losing by breathing.

An average person uses up about 550 liters of oxygen daily. According to reports, the 13 trapped people are now down to 15% oxygen in their chamber. If we assume that each small child is equal to about one-half of an adult, then the oxygen consumption should be about seven times 500 (they aren’t very active) or about 3,500 liters daily. After two weeks, a drop of 6% suggests that the total volume of the cave is very roughly 60,000 liters. It also suggests that one-half of one percent of oxygen is being consumed each day.

If they do not get oxygen soon, they will lose consciousness and be unable to help their rescuers get them out of the cave through the gauntlet of a lightless and treacherous, many-hours-long passage to safety. Because they are, in effect, adapting to lower oxygen concentrations slowly over time, they may last longer, but you shouldn’t expect them to survive oxygen levels below 8%. That’s what you would experience above the summit of Mount Everest.

You cannot get rid of 6% of the air in the cave chamber without consequences. The air pressure must be declining. At the same time, the water level, pushed by outside air pressure, must be rising. Fortunately, neither of these effects should impact the survival of those in that cave.

An optimistic estimate of how long the children will survive without more oxygen comes out to maybe two more weeks. By then, they would be unconscious and severely affected by a lack of calories to maintain their body functions. As numerous news articles have explained, more rains such as the one that trapped them could come and raise the water above their small island in the cave before those two weeks elapse.

We are witnessing a true cliff-hanger in real life as the efforts of a great many people are pitted against the realities of the situation and the scientific and engineering problems that must be overcome to rescue those children. As John Adsit has so eloquently written, even with food and air, we may not successfully remove all of those children to safety because of the extreme hazards of the hours-long trip to the outside world.

Two Frameworks for 21st-Century Skills

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

Globally there is a call for learners and workers to develop 21st-century skills. Two common frameworks are from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group which has members from 35 countries worldwide, and DigComp developed by the European Union (EU).

The OECD states that “[o]ne approach to organizing 21st-century skills focuses on cognitive skills, intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills, and technical skills (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009 in Geisinger, 2016).” These skills are geared toward the educational context, the work environment, and commerce. Skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and cross-cultural sensitivity are seen as key to participation and problem-solving in the global economy. Underlying all of these skills is a need for digital knowledge and proficiency.

The DigComp frameworks, now presented as DigComp 2.1, focuses on competencies related specifically to technology knowledge and skills for citizens, specifically in the workplace while DigCompEdu (Redecker, 2017) outlines educator-specific digital competences. DigComp 2.1’s eight (8) levels of competence are fitted to Bloom’s taxonomy. These range from remembering, e.g., being able to perform simple digital tasks with guidance, to creating, e.g., resolving complex problems and guiding others in high-level problem solving.

DigCompEdu presents educator-specific digital competences that are organized in six areas. These areas include educators engaging in their own growth by professional development to creating appropriate digital integration activities for their students.   Continue reading

Thailand Cave Rescue via Diving Is a Daunting Challenge

adsit80By John Adsit
Educational Consultant

As a certified cave diver, I have followed the ordeal of the Thai soccer club with great interest. As I type, the rescuers are trying to determine the best way to bring them to the surface. No one has an answer at this time, but I have been asked to write about the options from the perspective of a cave diver, an educator in general, and a diving instructor in particular. What I hope to convey to an audience unfamiliar with cave diving is how truly daunting it will be if the decision is made to have the team escape by diving. If the team is going to make an exit by diving, they will need to undergo immediate and intensive training.

Personnel and equipment in the entrance chamber of Tham Luang cave during rescue operations during 26–27 June 2018. Screen capture from NBT news report.

When I teach new divers, I ask about their swimming and snorkeling experiences. What I am looking for is the degree to which they feel comfortable in the water. The greatest enemy to a diver is panic. Students who are accustomed to the normal mishaps of swimming, like accidentally getting water in the mouth or eyes, will usually have no trouble, but for people with little swimming experience, such a minor event can lead to irrational panic. Most of the Thai team members are non-swimmers, and the culture there has a common belief that swimming is extremely dangerous. That starts any training in a serious deficit.

For most people, learning to dive is not too much of a challenge, and people with only basic scuba certification visit diving vacation destinations (including Thailand) by the thousands each year, and diving accidents are very rare. Such diving, however, is not remotely like the diving these children will face. Normal cave diving requires skills that go beyond what 99% of the world’s divers have ever seen, which is why it is so very hard to become certified to dive in caves. The diving required in this cave, however, is not normal cave diving, and the rescuers are not normal cave divers.   Continue reading

Not in Our Lifetime: Are Libraries Dead?

By Gwen Sinclair
Librarian, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Library

Because I am a librarian, people often ask me, “Do we still need libraries now that everything is online?” My stock answer goes something like this: “‘Everything’ is not and will not be available online in my lifetime, and even if it were, we would still need  libraries.”

The belief that practically everything, from every book ever written to all of the films ever made, has been digitized and is available online for free has taken root in the collective minds of nearly everyone. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will realize that a lot of miracles would have to happen before “everything” could be digitized and posted online.

There are several roadblocks to scanning all of the books, periodicals, archival records, films, videos, audio cassettes, photographs, and ephemera available in libraries and putting them online. First and foremost is funding. A digitization project involves more than simply scanning a set of books and uploading the content. Even with high-speed automated book scanners, humans are still needed to select the books, prepare them for scanning, position them on the scanner, and so forth. Items that have folds or tears must be flattened or mended before they are scanned. Care must be taken not to damage fragile film or magnetic tapes during the digitization process. Photographic prints, negatives, or slides must be positioned precisely, and some post-processing may be necessary to straighten, crop, or clean up images.   Continue reading

How Do You Prepare Students to Learn Online?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

What do you tell your online learners?

Most universities and many high schools in the US use online and hybrid courses to teach anything from foreign languages to Physics. People around the world take part in MOOCs, free online courses with hundreds, perhaps thousands of participants. Informal courses are offered online so you can learn to knit or repair a car in the comfort of your own home. Online coursework is everywhere, and there may be the assumption that everyone knows how to “do” it.

However, instructors often find that, just like face-to-face courses, learners’ abilities, needs and motivations vary. The novelty of using technology for learning can soon wear off, so like any coursework, the online offering needs effective pedagogical strategies to provide intrinsic motivation to learn.

Online learning readiness

Let’s consider one factor that some research from the field of online learning has explored, online learning readiness (Cigdem & Ozturk, 2016; Horzuma, Kaymak, & Gungorenc, 2015). I’d like to hear about your experience. How do you prepare your students to learn in the online environment? What have you done that you find effective?

Assumption: because computers and technology are so pervasive, learners know how to use technology for learning.

Research findings: Many people know how to use social media, email, and their smartphones, but may be less sure how to use technology for educational purposes. Some studies have shown a direct correlation between a learner’s familiarity with the learning platform and their ability to use it and their motivation to participate and learn (Cigdem & Ozturk, 2016; Horzuma, Kaymak, & Gungorenc, 2015). Therefore, these researchers propose that the instructor should not assume that learners know how to use the platform and that they understand how to successfully complete assignments. Provide clear instructions on how to use the platform, give clear and direct instructions for assignments, and clear expectations.


Cigdem, H. & Ozturk, M. (2016). Critical components of online learning readiness and their relationships with learner achievement. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE 17 (2), 98-109.

Horzuma, M.B., Kaymak. Z.D., & Gungorenc, O.C. (2015). Structural equation modeling towards online learning readiness, academic motivations, and perceived learning. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 15 (3) pp. 759-770. DOI

The Making of a Silent Hero: Kaepernick and Social Media

By Gina Ribuca
Student, Kapi’olani Community College

There was a lot of controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick and the NFL last year. Many of us have seen or heard about him silently taking a knee during the national anthem. We have our own views on the issue. Some are not sure what it was about, while others think they know every detail. What did happen after, however, will never be forgotten. Some people called him a traitor while others, a hero. I think he is closer to a hero than a traitor. Sacrificing oneself to make the world a better place is the soul and characteristic of a hero.

Photo by Gina Ribuca, Kaneohe, HI, 4 July 2017.

The first time I saw him kneel, a lot ran through my mind. Social media was sent into a firestorm, and some of the comments were pure evil. “It’s just so easy to hate,” said Arian Foster, a Miami Dolphins player who also knelt before his game (Walker). Social media played a huge role in the truths and falsifications of this story. So many were clicking “share” on anything connected to Kaepernick before knowing the facts. However, not everyone realized that his silent, solitary protest contributed to the beginning of a worldwide movement among professional athletes and actors. Kaepernick decided to use his media platform to take a stand and to be a voice for those who had none. When a country or its people are ill-served by its government, then the people have the right and obligation to protest. Protesting against the government does not make a person a traitor. No, it means s/he has taken a stand for what she believes is right.  Continue reading