By Phillip Petersen ESM
One of the latest movies to hit the theatres is Sanctum. At the beginning of the movie, it states that the concept of the movie is based on a true event.
The true event was the rescue of a group of researchers trapped in a Nullarbor cave at Pannikan Plains, near Cocklebiddy Western Australia in 1988. After a flash flooding, the cave entrance became flooded and re-arranged rocks as big as cars to form a blockage to the entrance/exit to the cave. The SES Cliff and Cave Rescue Team was called to respond. The team consisted of Bob Coops (Team leader), Neil McCauly, Neil Brooks, Rod Ives and Jim Ridgwell. Eventually a path was found and established by Neil Brooks. After many hours each of the researchers was brought to the surface from the would be tomb.
After the statement at the beginning, the movie continues as a “extreme” cave exploration of the treacherous Esa-ala caves in New Guinea and I am assured by rescuer, Jim Ridgwell, it does not resemble anything like the original rescue. However do hang on for a edge of your seat action for a packed 3D movie with a bunch of hyped up Americans. A cyclonic flooding and the cave soon sorts them out.
FESA does not support SES volunteers in cave rescue role or training these days. Apparently current emergency management policy says that Department Environment and Conservation (DEC) is responsible for caves followed by the Police is for search and rescue.
Neil Brooks is located at Exmouth SES Unit and Jim Ridgwell at Gosnells SES Unit and are still both active SES volunteers.
More on the original rescue and the making of the movie (made in Australia with a number of Australian actors) can be seen on the following links:
ABC report of the real life story of a team of cave divers trapped below the Nullarbor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VfZvOQqgig&feature=related
1988 Sun Herald News report
Jim Ridgwell’s recollection of the rescue is recorded in the Winter/Spring 2009 edition copy of the SES journal “The Volunteer” and an original report is in the now defunct SES journal Autumn 1989 edition of “Western Alert”.