The 12 young Thailand footballers trapped in a dark flooded cave were meditating at the moment divers from the outside world reached them.
They told their British diver rescuers that their 25-year-old coach Ekkapol Chantawong, who is stuck alongside them, had taught them to preserve energy in their bodies throughout the 10-day ordeal, The Australian reports.
Meditation is a skill that Chantawong knows well.
He was just 10 years old when he lost his family (his father, mother and his seven-year-old brother) to an illness that spread through the home.
Chantawong’s aunt Umporn Sriwichai told The Australian he was a “sad and lonely little boy” after the deaths but was sent to a Buddhist monastery as a young teenager.
There he grew “physically and mentally strong” and gained the skills that have helped him to keep the boys alive and calm, she said.
“I know he would be keeping the boys calm and happy. He loves those boys very much because he lost his father when he was very young.
“Our family cannot handle another tragedy.”
Chantawong, 25, the assistant coach of the Wild Boars football team was in charge the day they disappeared because Nopparat Kathawong, the head coach, missed their training session to perform official duties at his village.
Kathawong speculated that they may have entered the cave to cool off after being “hot and tired” from their game.
Last week, before their discovery, he expressed regret that he had not been there to help them. “I feel really sad that they’re lost. I can’t close my eyes to go to sleep,” he admitted.
Thai navy Seals are racing to train the boys how to scuba dive before the arrival of monsoon rains that could force an emergency evacuation.
The group has been trapped in the vast cave complex in Northern Thailand for almost two weeks, and experts are currently assessing how they will get them out.
High-pressure pumps were used yesterday to drain water from the cave, while navy Seals stayed with the boys to give them first aid, swimming and diving lessons, and to keep their spirits up.
A video released yesterday showed Lt Col Dr Phak Lohanchun applying disinfectant to minor wounds on emaciated boys wrapped in foil blankets inside the cave.
“Show me your smile,” he says to one of the younger children, as some of the boys state their name and say they are in good health.
Meanwhile, engineers laid a fibre-optic cable through the labyrinthian Tham Luang cave to allow the boys to speak to their families for the first time since their ordeal began on June 23.
It is an important psychological booster before either a perilous journey through 6km of underwater passageways, or the prospect of having to sit out the monsoon rains for weeks or even months, to allow the floodwaters to subside.
After the elation of the boys’ discovery on Monday evening, by Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, the British diving pair, the Thai-led multinational rescue team has been focused on the safest way to bring the boys home.
According to a report in The Australian, navy Seals may attempt to bring the boys out today, after good weather yesterday allowed fast-water currents inside the cave to ease to a standstill.
Conditions were currently as good as they are likely to get, officials told the newspaper.
Engineers are reportedly attempting to widen bottlenecks in the escape route to allow the Seals to accompany the children throughout the journey.
However, diving experts still stress the acute dangers in attempting to extract children, some of whom cannot even swim, in treacherous conditions.
Some of the experts maintain that the best strategy would be to supply them with food, clean water and warm clothes inside the cave for the time being.
Ruangrit Changkwanyuen, a local diver assisting with the rescue efforts told The Telegraph that the level of water yesterday was “much better”.
But he stressed that the children would have “a lot of techniques to learn” before attempting the dive.
He said: “The rescuers are figuring out which option is the best for the kids and diving out is one option.
“But the possibility is also if they can pump out the water so much that maybe they can dive for a short period and then they float out, and then they can walk.”– The Daily Telegraph