Two days after 12 boys and their soccer coach disappeared inside a cave complex in Thailand's mountainous north, a team of Thai Royal Navy SEALs headed before sunrise into the pitch-black maze of muddy passages to find them.

"We worked until we forgot the time," said Capt. Anan Surawan, chief of the 1st Special Forces Regiment.

But their day-long mission failed because, as monsoon rains lashed the limestone hills outside, Anan's men found themselves wading through rapidly rising waters and, fearing for their lives, they turned back.