A British diver involved in rescuing a Thai boy’s soccer team from a submerged cave has a low opinion of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s very public offers of help, telling CNN that Musk “can stick his submarine where it hurts.”
Musk’s proposal to rescue the team with a small submarine “just had absolutely no chance of working,” said diver Vern Unsworth, who played a major role in the rescue. “[Musk] had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5 foot 6 long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles.”
“It wouldn’t have made the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point,” Unsworth continued. “Just a PR stunt.”
Musk on July 6 began brainstorming at length on Twitter about a small submarine to help rescue the team. The sub was quickly built and tested using SpaceX components and engineers, with the process extensively documented and shared by Musk.
Simulating maneuvering through a narrow passage pic.twitter.com/2z01Ut3vxJ— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
But the team was extricated by Tuesday, July 10, without the device. Thai authorities said the sub was “not practical,” a point Unsworth was happy to expand on.
“It just had absolutely no chance of working,” he continued.
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And Unsworth should know – he was instrumental in the boys’ rescue, convincing Thai authorities to call on a team of English divers who knew the cave, according to the Daily Mail. Unsworth’s knowledge of the Tham Luang cave, gleaned over what he says has been six years of exploration, helped locate the missing boys.
Musk’s offer of help with the crisis has proven polarizing. Though many saw the effort as good-hearted, some shared Unsworth’s cynicism, accusing Musk of egotism, overconfidence, and self-aggrandizement.
As I pointed out, in his twitter videos of the pod, there's a cameraman holding a "steady-cam" like rig. Likely filming high quality footage for an eventual $TSLA/SpaceX PR video. Being the cynic I am, this raises questions to the legitimacy of his motives.— Brodie Ferguson (@brodieferguson) July 13, 2018
Musk seems to have been well aware of the blowback, writing that the criticism “has shaken my opinion of many people.”
This reaction has shaken my opinion of many people. We were asked to create a backup option & worked hard to do so. Checked with dive team many times to confirm it was worthwhile. Now it’s there for anyone who needs it in future. Something’s messed up if this is not a good thing.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2018
Musk has also defended himself from skeptics of the subs’ potential usefulness, sharing correspondence with the rescue team as they provided encouragement and feedback.
The former Thai provincial governor (described inaccurately as “rescue chief”) is not the subject matter expert. That would be Dick Stanton, who co-led the dive rescue team. This is our direct correspondence: pic.twitter.com/dmC9l3jiZR— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2018
The Thai Navy has since said it may use the submarine at some point in the future, but if Unsworth is to be believed, it won’t be for tricky cave rescues.