Exploring Uncharted Territories | A Q&A with Cave Diver Chris Jewell

11 February 2019

Peak performance, teamwork and motivation are an important aspect in any team, but for cave diver Chris Jewell, this can be the difference between life and death.

Spending the better part of 12 years exploring underwater holes in Somerset, digging underwater in the Yorkshire Dales, and establishing the deepest cave system in the Western hemisphere the Huanutla caves, Chris has a gripping story.

This combination of experience and knowledge lead Chris to be one of rescuers in the most dramatic volunteer rescue operation the world has ever seen, the 12 boys and their coach from a flooded Thailand cave.

Chris chatted to us to answer our burning questions about cave diving, the Thai rescue operation and the dedication and hard work it takes from the entire team to successfully complete a cave exploration. Thank for the chat Chris!

What an interesting career you have! Cave diving isn’t an every day activity for most, where did your love of cave diving stem from?

I started cave diving in 2006 but I was already an experienced caver and qualified diver before I combined the two sports. I joined the Cave Diving Group (CDG) which is the national governing body for cave diving in the UK. I was fascinated by cave exploration and wanted to expand my capabilities to include submerged caves.

Almost overnight you became an internationally recognised name following your involvement in the Thai cave rescue. How did this rescue differ from other cave dives you’ve previously done?

Diving in to reach the boys in Tham Luang was the sort of diving I do regularly but bringing another human being out through that cave was unlike anything I’ve ever done. The responsibility was immense.

What were some of the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome those?

Moving another human being through the constricted passages in almost zero visibility was really tough. You just had to move slowly, take your time and keep calm.

Prior to June 2018, we know you were a regular figure on the speaking circuit. What messages resonate most with the audiences you’ve spoken to?

Exploration is often an overused term but when I use it relating to cave exploration we are really talking about going where no one has gone before. I try to convey the thrill and excitement of true exploration as well as the hard work and the team effort it takes to be a cave explorer.

The nature of cave diving means you face new challenges on a constant basis. What advice would you have for audiences on adapting and meeting new challenges?

I look at cave diving as a problem solving exercise. Yes there are some golden rules but there is still a lot of space for innovation. It’s important to remember that no one has all the answers, not all the equipment is commercially available and that it’s ok to imagine new ways of doing things. What matters is getting the job done, there are no points for style.

Will you be off this year exploring hidden caves across the world?

I hope so, I’m off to Vietnam soon and have some other projects in the pipeline. The rescue in Thailand hasn’t dulled my interest in cave exploration, I think it’s an obsession!

And finally, if you had one message that you absolutely had to share with an audience, what would it be?

Despite what people might think cave divers are not adrenaline junkies... were actually quite risk averse. We put a lot of effort into managing risk and plan carefully to balance it against our objectives.

Such an interesting story Chris, thanks for sharing some insights into the world of cave diving!

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