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Craig Challen, WA Australian of the year 2019

Cave diver and rescuer
2019 Australian of the Year

Respected cave diver Craig Challen was a member of the team that successfully rescued 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand in July 2018. He was awarded the Star of Courage (SC) for his bravery.

Book of Knots and sample knots

Cave diving is not for everyone but Craig Challen loves it. He is one of the world’s most experienced cave divers and has travelled widely, exploring beautiful and technical cave systems across the globe. For this reason, and because he is Richard Harris’s trusted dive buddy, he joined the team that rescued the Wild Boars soccer team from a flooded cave system in Thailand.

The Ashley Book of Knots contains 3854 entries, each with a detailed description and instructions. It is Craig’s go-to reference and has guided him to become a skilful maker of both practical and decorative knots, such as the ones pictured.

A hardbound book stands beside two rope knots.
The Ashley Book of Knots and sample knots, on loan from Craig Challen, cave diver and rescuer, Western Australia, 2019 Australian of the Year

The perfect knot

Knots are absolutely essential for rope work when caving. You only need a basic repertoire of perhaps half a dozen knots to get by, but once you expand your knowledge you really start to appreciate the field and become fascinated by using the perfect knot for any situation.

An open mind

In knotting there is a lesson for approaching the problems of life. No matter how expert you think you are, someone will always have another way of achieving the desired end. Each of the ways will have its advantages and its disadvantages. Often it is impossible to say which is best. The informed and considered preference of the educated user is the best guide, but they should always keep their mind open to improvement.

Dangerous mission

As far as the site goes, cave diving is what we do so the dive wasn’t in and of itself that bad. But, the fact that you have got a living, breathing little person that you are in charge of and you are very limited as to what you can do to help them, and it is a two-hour journey out of the cave ... It was absolutely life and death. We didn’t expect to be getting 13 people out of there alive.

This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images courtesy National Australia Day Council.

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