Open main menu

John Paul Volanthen (born 1971)[1] is a British cave diver who specializes in rescues through the Cave Rescue Organisation, South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue, and the British Cave Rescue Council. He became known in 2018 for playing a leading role in the Tham Luang cave rescue. He cave dives as a hobby and conducts rescues as a volunteer. He works as an IT consultant in Bristol.[2]

John Volanthen
Born John Volanthen
Brighton, UK
Nationality United Kingdom
Education De Montfort University
Occupation IT consultant
Known for Cave diving, cave rescue

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Volanthen grew up in Brighton.[2] His interest in caving began when he was a scout.[3] He attended De Montfort University in Leicester where he studied electronics.[4] He began cave diving through a social club when he attended college.[5] Volanthen's surname is an anglicized spelling of the Swiss surname "Von Lanthen". His grandfather was Swiss.[6]

Caving and rescuesEdit

RescuesEdit

Volanthen frequently cave dives and conducts rescues with a partner, Richard Stanton. He was part of a team that attempted a cave rescue of Eric Establie in 2010, in the Dragonnière Gaud Cave near Labastide-de-Virac in the Ardèche region of France, which was ultimately unsuccessful.[7][8] In 2011, Volanthen assisted in the recovery of the body of Polish cave diver Artur Kozłowski from a cave in Kiltartan, Ireland.[9] Norwegian authorities asked him to assist in recovering the bodies of two Finnish divers from Jordbrugrotta in 2014, but after diving down to the site he and his colleagues deemed the operation too risky.[10] The bodies were subsequently recovered by Finnish and Norwegian divers.

In 2018, he helped locate a youth soccer team in the Tham Luang cave rescue; he and Stanton were the first to make contact with them.[11] Poor visibility, cave debris, and cold temperatures were all obstacles to cave diving in search of the team. Volanthen was placing guidelines in the cave to assist others in navigation. He ran out of line, which led him to swim to the surface—there, he found the missing team and its coach.[12] Volanthen's voice is heard on a widely-seen video of the first contact with the soccer team, saying "How many of you?" When he learned that all the missing people were accounted for, he replied, "Brilliant."[2] He and Stanton did not have any food to offer the team when they encountered them, but they gave them a light. When they left the team, Volanthen promised them that he would come back, doing so by assisting in delivering food.[13]

Volanthen discounted the notion that encountering the team was due to luck, saying that he and Stanton systematically surfaced at every airspace in the flooded cave passages to shout and listen for a response, as well as to smell. He stated that they smelled the team before they saw them. He also assisted in rescuing members of the team, saying that the children were enclosed in bags with handles on the backs for the divers to hold onto. Additionally, the bags were clipped to the divers in case they lost their grip. Parts of the cave were so narrow that the children had to be pushed in front of the divers. At other times, the children were held close to the chest or held out to the side. Volanthen stated that carrying the children was akin to carrying a "shopping bag."[13]

In a BBC interview after the rescue, Volanthen was asked, "Can you see that what you did was fairly remarkable?" He responded, "I can see it was a first, how's that?"[13]

RecordsEdit

In 2004, Volanthen and Stanton set a world record for the greatest depth achieved in a British cave, cave diving 76 m (249 ft) at Wookey Hole in Somerset.[14] In 2010, Volanthen, Stanton, Jason Mallinson, and René Houben set a world record for the longest cave penetration dive, obtaining 8,800 m (28,900 ft) in the Pozo Azul cave system in the Rudrón Valley in Spain.[15]

EquipmentEdit

Volanthen designs and constructs some of his own diving equipment, and has been called a "technical guru."[16] He designed a mapping device that collects information while diving.[17] He also designs and modifies his own rebreathers to increase their compactness and efficiency.[16]

Awards and honoursEdit

Volanthen was awarded a medal by the Royal Humane Society in 2012 for a rescue attempt of a diver in a French cave, and for the discovery of the diver's body.[18]

Personal lifeEdit

As a hobby, he runs marathons and ultramarathons.[2] He is also a volunteer scout leader with the Somerset Scouts, taking children on cave excursions.[19] He was formerly married to Annabelle Richards.[4]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "John Paul VOLANTHEN". companieshouse.gov.uk. Retrieved 7 July 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Thailand cave rescue: The Brits who helped find the boys". BBC News. BBC. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018. 
  3. ^ Rudd, Matt (1 December 2013). "The cavern club". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Yohannes Lowe; Victoria Ward; Francesca Marshall (3 July 2018). "Thai cave rescue: mother of hero diver speaks of pride but warns 'it's not over yet'". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  5. ^ Sarah White; Jake Wallis Simons; Tracey Kandohla (3 July 2018). "British diver's mother cries as she reveals how his late father who died just nine months ago would have been so proud of his son for bravely saving youth football team in Thailand". Daily Mail.com. Associated Newspapers, Ltd. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  6. ^ Price, Duncan (2010). "Full Circle". In Hanwell, J.; Price, D.; Witcombe, R. Wookey Hole: 75 Years of Cave Diving & Exploration (PDF). Cave Diving Group. ISBN 0901031070. 
  7. ^ "South and Mid Wales experts join Ardeche cave rescue". BBC News. BBC. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2018. 
  8. ^ "Cave explorer found dead after dramatic eight-day search". france24 News. france24. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2018. 
  9. ^ Siggins, Lorna (12 September 2011). "British rescue team recovers body of missing cave diver". The Irish Times. The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  10. ^ Kremer, William (2016-05-09). "The cave divers who went back for their friends". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-07-03. 
  11. ^ "British divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen at the heart of the Thai cave rescue". 4 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via www.thetimes.co.uk. 
  12. ^ Richard C. Paddock; Muktita Suhartono (3 July 2018). "Thailand cave rescue turns to how to extract trapped soccer team". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  13. ^ a b c Jonathan Head (Correspondent) (13 July 2018). John Volanthen Interview Thailand Caves. BBC. Retrieved 14 July 2018. 
  14. ^ "Thailand cave rescue: 'Best of the best' enlisted to find boys and coach". nzherald.co.nz. NZME. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  15. ^ "Records and Aquatic Superlatives". Diving Almanac. Diving Almanac & Book of Records. 3 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  16. ^ a b Farr, Martyn (2017). The Darkness Beckons: The History and Development of World Cave Diving. Vertebrate Graphics Limited. ISBN 1910240745. 
  17. ^ "Rick Stanton continues Ressel Cave Exploration in April 2012 powered by Bonex Discovery RS". BONEXEXPLORATIONSSYSTEME. Bonex GmbH & Co. Retrieved 5 July 2018. 
  18. ^ Royal Humane Society (2012). Annual Report 2012 (PDF) (Report). Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  19. ^ Somerset Scouts. "Congratulations to Somerset Scouts' caving lead volunteer - Jon Volanthen - and his colleagues". Facebook. Retrieved 9 July 2018.