Lighting the Way in Ron Howards “Thirteen Lives” movie

Watch how Tektite/Tekna Expedition Star, Trek Pro, and Lite 6 Lights provide critical cave and diving illumination for Ron Howard’s movie recreating the dramatic and daring cave rescue of thirteen young boys trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand.

In the movie, actors Colin Farell and Viggo Mortensen recreate the dramatic rescue of a young Thai football soccer coach and his 12 team members from an initially dry cave. Unfortunately, the cave quickly floods due to an early onset of the monsoon season in Thailand trapping the boys an incredible 2,500 meters from the opening. Volunteer British cave rescue divers Rick Stanton, played by Viggo Mortensen, and John Volanthen, played by Colin Farrell, struggle to make their way down flooded passageways with twisting and sharp turns with strong currents inside the cave. It takes them over three hours each way to reach the boys.

Incredulously and against all odds, they find all thirteen boys still alive. John Volanthen, played by Colin Farrell, videos all of the team to bring back the images to anxiously waiting parents with the entire global population looking on. Then they have to figure out how to get them out of the cave and keep them alive while doing it.

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In nearly every scene the actors can be seen wearing several different Tektite/Tekna flashlights. They are lightweight and the most reliable lights made, which makes them exceptionally  suitable for cave diving where lighting illumination is critical for survival.

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In this scene, Colin can be seen wearing a yellow Tektite/Tekna Expedition Star on his helmet underneath a smaller, yet equally powerful Trek Pro in a black body attached to the left side of his helmet.

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In this scene, shot at a later time in the movie, Colin is seen wearing a Tektite/Tekna Expedition Star in a camo drab olive green body underneath the Trek Pro in a black body attached to his helmet.

In a movie that depicts such a highly technical scuba diving rescue, such as this movie does, there may always be the occasional technical issue noted by experienced cave and shipwreck divers. In movie critiques, these are known as ‘Easter Eggs’.

  • Cave divers ‘run a reel’ or a spool of line marking the trail from where the divers entered the cave. This provides them with the means to return back to the safety of the entrance by simply following that line back. It’s cave diving protocol on the way into the cave, to attach small arrows on the line itself pointing back in the direction of the entrance. This simple action prevents confusion during the dive as to which way to go to the exit as it is extremely easy to become disoriented inside a dark cave with no light in either direction except for the one the diver is wearing. I did not note any of these being used.


  • An additional line mishap was noted when one of the rescue divers loses contact with the return line while transporting one of the anesthesized boys back out of the cave. The movie depicts him scrambling to both stay in touch with the young boy while trying to find the cave return line. He eventually gives up trying to find the line and luckily manages to find an old line left over from some previous time on the bottom floor of the passageway. He follows it instead and finds it was an alternate entrance for one of the already established cave air pockets they were using as way points. Basic cave diving training teaches divers how to reestablish contact with the line that they ran on the way in to the cave if they should ever lose it, even in total darkness.


  • Cave divers carry multiple tanks of redundant breathing gases for a good reason. In one scene, unfortunately for Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, his octopus aka backup breathing regulator falls out and gets stuck in between the rocks in a tight passageway of the cave and begins free flowing his breathing gas on his way out of the cave. As an experienced diver, he manages to retrieve the regulator from the rocks and eventually gets it to stop free flowing. Unfortunately, it has also exhausted almost all of his remaining breathing gas in the one 80 cu.ft. tank that he’s wearing. He realizes his dire issue, bravely attempts to outswim it to reach an air pocket in the cave, and regretably does not make it in time. This movie was dedicated to him.

    • Cave and advanced shipwreck dive training teaches divers how to safely and securely fasten every piece of equipment on themselves to prevent a scenario such as this from happening in the first place.

Ron Howard ‘s amazing ability to interweave the drama of a situation with the personalities in the story gives us yet another masterpiece of a film from one of Hollywood’s most famous actor/director/producers. He deftly and accurately describes the production of his film and the challenging dive scenes in this Vanity Fair video:

About the Author

Karl Kelso

Karl is an advanced technical diving instructor having trained many divers and logged thousands of dives most of them on shipwrecks off the coasts of New York and New Jersey.
NAUI - 48712
SDI/TDI - 13621

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