Elon Musk's Thai Cave Submarine Called 'PR Stunt' by Rescue Diver


Elon Musk's highly-publicized plan to aid in the rescue of 13 people trapped in a Thai cave for two weeks has been vilified as a "PR stunt" that "had absolutely no chance of working." The billionaire industrialist behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX sent a "kid-sized submarine" to the Tham Luang caves, with the aim of ferrying the marooned soccer team and their coach to safety. 

While authorities thanked Musk for the gesture, the vessel was largely a superfluous footnote in the narrative, as the 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach were rescued by Thai Navy SEALs in a highly dangerous operation that saw one diver killed. Despite traveling to Thailand and gifting his submarine to authorities, Musk drew scorn for announcing his directive on Twitter and later quarreled with the media's portrayal of his plans. 

Vern Unsworth, a diver on the team that successfully rescued the victims, is echoing many of those critical sentiments, telling CNN that Musk "can stick his submarine where it hurts." Unsworth, who has a "intimate knowledge of the Tham Luang cave system," and calls it his "second home" after spending six years learning its intricacies, played a pivotal role in the rescue operation, per the report

In an interview the the network, the 63-year-old was quick to lambast Musk, saying: The submarine "just had absolutely no chance of working. He had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about five foot six 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."

Unsworth called the submarine a "PR stunt" and noted that Musk "was asked to leave very quickly," after arriving at the cave. 

Musk hasn't been shy about offering help to those who need it, often in the wake of international news events. While he sent Tesla solar battery packs to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in an effort to rebuild the island's power grid, he recently offered to help with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where a lead-contamination of the city's water source prompted a Legionnaires Disease outbreak that killed 12 people in 2014.

The billionaire's chance to help Flint drink clean water seems decidedly less of a stretch than the ill-fated submarine mission. 

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster