Search and rescue missions take place across the globe on a daily basis.
While we don’t hear about the challenges, successes and logistical operations of each and every rescue, there are a few missions that make headlines around the world.
Check out three of the major search and rescue missions that impacted the world.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Reportedly one of the costliest search and rescue missions in history, the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 remains a mystery.
On the morning of March 8th, 2014, a scheduled flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing commenced. Problems started to arise while the aircraft was over the South China Sea, where the last verbal communication was conducted with traffic control. Shortly after take-off, the aircraft disappeared from the radar screens of Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh air traffic control, prompting the activation of a secondary tracking system – no signal was detected. Data later revealed that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had taken a rapid change in direction off-track.
Due to the unusual circumstances, the search and rescue process for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 commenced at a multi-national level. Originally focusing on South-East Asia, search and rescue units ended up expanding over to the Indian Ocean, where it was determined satellite networks had determined the aircraft had reached.
During the initial phase of search operations, the preliminary search area was determined to be 118,000 square miles off the southwest Australian coast, amongst a section of the ocean dominated by wild winds, cavernous ocean floors, and rough waves. As search operations expanded, 19 ships and 345 aircraft sweeps conducted a surface search that covered approximately 1.8 million square miles of the Indian Ocean.
By 2014, Time magazine valued the monetary expenditures for the search and rescue effort at the equivalent of $70 million (up until that point). By the time all search operations ceased, the bill amounted to over $100 million.
The Case of Dennis Martin
On June, 14, 1969 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA, 6-year-old Dennis Martin disappeared just out of sight of a group of family and friends. In a bid to prank their parents, Dennis and his two brothers hid in different directions of the woods and came out to startle the adults (who were aware of what was going on and prepared themselves accordingly). After Dennis failed to appear, a search and rescue operation was quickly established.
Up to 1,400 people looked for Dennis, with 60 Green Berets separately conducting their own search. Bizarrely, no sign of Dennis was found by any parts.
When the search ended, over 13,000 man-hours had been logged. Helicopters had spent almost two hundred hours in the air searching across the park, however despite all efforts Dennis was never found. The search was officially closed down on September 14, 1969.
2018 Thailand Cave Rescue
On 23 June 2018, 12 boys went exploring in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province along with their soccer coach and ended up trapped deep inside a cave underneath a mountain.
The cave complex where the boys and their coach became trapped is a selection of caverns and crevices, which posed a range of problems for rescuers. Some stretches of the Tham Luang cave are more than 10 metres high, while others are a tight squeeze through water-filled passages. Combined with significant rainfall, Tham Luang cave quickly drew in water, forcing the boys further into the cave.
While the coach taught the boys meditation techniques to keep them calm, search and rescue professionals planned how to undertake the rescue operation. Approximately 90 divers were involved in the rescue, around 50 of which were foreigners. Divers used “Heyphones” to communicate with the rescue base. The ultra-low frequency transmitters are able to penetrate through rock and send divers’ locations and messages.
All 12 boys were successfully rescued. Thai diver PO Saman had been helping transfer oxygen tanks to the boys when he got into difficulties on the way back and did not have enough air himself. He died after losing consciousness in one of the passageways, with colleagues unable to revive him.
Kel Boers is a Leading Senior Constable of Police in the Australian Federal Police Maritime unit and keynote speaker at the 2019 Australian & New Zealand Search & Rescue Conference.
For his involvement in the Tham Luang Cave rescue Kel was awarded a Commonwealth of Australia Bravery Medal, an Order of Australia Medal and an Australian Federal Police Bravery Medal.
Hear Kel speak at this year’s conference. Find out more here.
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