Rick Stanton & John Volanthen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

rick stanton john volanthen

Getty Rick Stanton and John Volanthen confer about the Thai cave rescue.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen are the British cave diving experts who first located the missing Thai soccer team and now are charged with helping bring them out in what is expected to be a treacherous, multi-day journey through narrow passageways.

The story of the Thai soccer team and their coach, who have been trapped in Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province since June 23, 2018, has produced heroes – among them Stanton and Volanthen – and tragedy, as a Thai Navy Seal, Sgt. Major Saman Gunan, lost his life valiantly trying to deliver oxygen canisters. Stanton’s full name is Richard Stanton. The two British cave divers have been referred to as the “A Team” in their field. A third British cave diver, Robert Harper, is also involved in the Thai cave rescue of the boys, ages 11 to 16, and their coach.

Six of the boys had been rescued by 10 a.m. Eastern time on July 8, 2019.

On July 7, 2018, Thai officials indicated it was “D-Day” and said the cave rescue was beginning. The Thai Navy Seals, who are assisting in the cave rescue, posted this photo before it launched:

Who are Rick Stanton and John Volanthen? How did they get involved in cave diving?

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Stanton & Volanthen Found the Boys Huddled in the Cave & Took a Video Seen Around the World

Two British divers Richard William Stanton (L) and John Volanthen (C) walk to the Tham Luang cave area at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 3, 2018 after finding the children and football coach alive in the cave.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen already helped perform one miracle: They discovered the boys, still alive, inside the bowels of the cave after the soccer team had been missing for nine days. They had arrived in Thailand three days after the boys were first reported missing. Now, they are part of the team that will try to guide the boys out.

The video footage the men took of the moment they located the boys in the cave warmed hearts around the world. According to the Guardian, Bill Whitehead, vice chair of the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC), said Stanton and Volanthen “were pushing ahead with the other divers following on behind, creating dumps of air bottles. They managed to dive the last section and get through into the chamber where the missing party were on a ledge above the water.”

“How many of you?” the men asked the boys. They responded “Thirteen!” “Thirteen?” says Volanthen. “Brilliant.” One of the men told the boys the rescue would have to wait at that time, saying: “Not today. There’s two of us. We have to dive. We are coming. OK? Many people are coming. We are the first.”

Now, the expert cave divers from Great Britain “will guide the trapped football team and their coach out of the flooded Thai cave with support from Thai Navy SEALs,” reports ABC.net.au. They are part of a much larger team. According to CNN, five SEAL divers from Thailand and 13 international divers are involved in the rescue.

NewsChannelAsia reports that more than “90 divers participated in the Sunday evacuation. About 50 of them came from different countries across the world and the rest are Thai.”

2. Rick Stanton Is a Retired Firefighter Who Became Interested in Diving as a Teenager

British cave diver Richard Stanton arrives at the Tham Luang cave area as rescue operations continue for the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the cave in Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in the Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 6, 2018.

Rick Stanton, 57, became interesting in diving when he wasn’t much older than the Thai boys are now. He hails from Coventry, England, where he is a retired firefighter, according to ABC.net.au. He’s been a cave diver for more than 35 years.

The site reports that he was only 16 or 17 when he became entranced by diving after watching a television program called Underground Eiger, which featured cave diving. Today, a widely regarded world expert in cave diving, Stanton is a popular speaker on the topic, according to Divernet.

“When people see a blank wall, they think it’s the end of the cave,” he explained to Divernet of cave diving. “They’re already at their limit and want to find an end so they can say: We can go back now. But you need to look closer, as if you had a second pair of eyes.”

According to Divernet, at university, he joined the caving and diving clubs and started diving in a Yorkshire River. He told the publication that cave diving is about an interest in caves first, saying, “Diving is just a means to an end, a way of getting to bits of cave you can’t get to otherwise.” He compared diving a cave to a jigsaw puzzle. He said in the 2007 article that he had been a firefighter for 18 years.

He described how he approaches a dive in the interview, saying, “I see myself doing the dive, not like a film or a snapshot but in critical segments, what I’m doing at set points, how I’m doing it, and what happens if something goes wrong.” You can read the full Divernet interview with Rick Stanton here.

3. John Volanthen Is an IT Consultant Who Runs Marathons

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British cave-diver John Volanthen removes his diving suit after walking out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

John Volanthen, at 47, is the younger of the British cave diving pair. According to ABC.net.au, he is an IT consultant from Bristol, England. A profile of him says he “first started caving with the Scouts in 1982,” and is of partial Swiss descent. He is called “Volleyball” as a play on his name.

According to The Guardian, Volanthen is a computer engineer and marathon runner. Both men are part of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team. In 2013, Volanthen told The Sunday Times, “The flight response now isn’t always appropriate. Panic and adrenaline are great in certain situations but not in cave-diving. The last thing you want is any adrenaline whatsoever.”

The Sunday Times added, “Volanthen lies in bed reaching for various imaginary tubes and switches — he has reached the point where it is all instinctive.”

Volanthen runs marathons and Ultra marathons, according to an online profile of him, which also describes him as a network engineer. He joked of the reason he runs: “only really run so I can eat more biscuits! Actively seeking sponsorship from Mcvities!”

His mother Jill told BBC she has “absolute pride” in her son’s decision to help the Thai boys.

4. The Pair Have Been Involved in Other Rescues

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Richard William Stanton (R) speaks to John Volanthen (L back to camera) at the Tham Luang cave area.

Stanton and Volanthen have worked together on cave rescues before. It hasn’t always had a positive ending. According to The Guardian, they worked to find French diver Eric Establie, “who was trapped by a silt avalanche inside the Ardeche Gorge, near Marseille.”

His body was found in the cave. France24 called Establie “an experienced French cave explorer on a mission to map an underground tunnel complex.” The two British cave divers “found his body 780 metres from the mouth of the cave and 70 metres beyond a rock fall that had blocked his exit,” the site reports.

In 2014, Stanton was involved in an effort to retrieve the bodies of two Norwegian cave divers who died in a massive cave system. According to BBC, Stanton “was also involved in the rescue of six British cavers in Mexico in 2004.”

In 2004, Stanton described the perils of cave diving to BBC, saying, “When people landed on the moon they had a map, they knew where they were going but in a cave if you’re beyond the known limit of the cave, nobody knows where it goes, you never know what will happen round the corner.”

5. Stanton Is Considered the Face of British Cave Diving & Both Men Have Set Records

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Three British cave-divers, Richard William Stanton (L), John Volanthen (2nd-L) and Robert Charles Harper (3rd-L) arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018.

According to The Guardian, Rick Stanton is an elite cave diver who “is the face of British cave diving, and the best cave diver in Europe.”

Martyn Farr, who knows both men, described them to BBC as “calm, very collected, very organised and extremely disciplined, consummate professionals.” They are recipients of a Royal Humane Society medal. This article has detailed descriptions of some of the complex cave dives the men have done in the past.

In 2004, the men “set a new record after cave-diving 76m (249ft),” according to NZHerald. This was the result of “a breathing system they developed for the attempt at Wookey Hole in Somerset.” They hold the record for the longest cave penetration dive, which took them 50 hours in Spain.