Mazel tov on the rescue of the young soccer players, and to their intrepid team of divers! The world breathes a collective sigh of relief this morning as the twelfth boy and their coach have been safely rescued from a Thai cave after more than two weeks of being trapped.

Because caves are formed naturally, their topography and the way water fills them can vary significantly, making them sometimes dangerous places and sometimes places for refuge.

Chris Nicola, author of The Secret of Priest’s Grotto has devoted over three decades to the study and exploration of caves in the Former Soviet Union, Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. This book details the exploration of an area of 77 miles of caves in Ukraine known as Priest’s Grotto where, according to legend, a group of Jewish families survived the Holocaust by hiding out for months. Nicola and co-author Peter Lane Taylor learn about the extraordinary families who made the complex maze of caves a rough home as they struggled and worked hard for their survival.

Chris, an experienced caver, has had narrow escapes in his career, surviving an emergency out-of-air accent from the ocean floor while on a decompression dive; climbing out of a 200-foot deep pit filled with poisonous gas; and surviving landslides, rock falls, being trapped underwater, and an avalanche while rappelling into a deep cave. As the attempted rescue of the Thai kids from the underwater cave unfolded, we asked Chris about it:

Yes, this situation in Thailand has many people thinking nowadays. One of the things going through my mind has been, 'thank God I got out of cave diving when I did'. I have lost six colleagues to diving accidents over the last 40 years. Some were world-class divers - but all took a short cut in the end. Unlike most cave divers, I got the underwater caving bug out of my system in my younger years, and then began doing only dry caves in my later years. Most start with dry caves, and then move on to wet caves, which they remain doing until that one fateful day when they make one mistake due to age; a mistake that very seldom offers any second chances. In fact the saying in the cave diving community is, "There are no second chances in cave diving. You simply become a statistic.”

That first-hand insight certainly makes the rescue in Thailand all the more amazing!

Order a copy of The Secret of Priest's Grotto to learn more about the expedition and the incredible story of the Stermer family.