- Linh Pham/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
An international team of hundreds of rescuers from around the world pulled the final five stranded members of the team – four boys and their coach – on Tuesday evening local time, ending a three-day rescue operation.
Here is a timeline that shows exactly how the Thai soccer team rescue unfolded.
Saturday, June 23: 12 members of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach get trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave by torrential rain.
The boys were apparently performing a sort of initiation ceremony in the cave, and got stuck when the cave flooded, blocking their way out.
Park officials discover the boys’ bikes at the entrance to the cave, and worried parents call the police when they realize their children are missing.
A major search and rescue operation is launched to find them.
Monday, July 2: The Thai soccer team and their coach are found showing “signs of life” after being trapped for nine days in the flooded cave.
- Thai Navy SEALs/Facebook
The coach of the soccer team, Ekkapol Chantawong, taught his players how to meditate so they could stay calm and conserve energy while they waited to be rescued. Divers found the team meditating when they arrived at the cave.
Getting into the cave wasn’t easy — and getting the team out will be even harder.
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Thai Navy SEAL divers and rescue workers entered a narrow passageway after passing through a key chamber where high, murky waters had previously blocked their progress.
In the course of their search, rising water filled sections of the cave, repeatedly forcing them to withdraw for safety reasons.
When water levels dropped, the divers went forward with a more methodical approach, deploying a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.
Tuesday, July 3: Rescuers prepare plans for getting the team out of the cave.
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There are three options available: teach the boys to swim out with scuba gear, drag them out of the cave, or leave them with supplies to wait until the water drains away after the monsoon season ends in four months.
While they try to figure out the best option, divers and medical professionals stay with the boys and deliver medicine and food to increase their strength.
Wednesday, July 4: The team begins taking swimming and diving lessons.
Swim lessons are rare in Thailand, where the leading cause of death for children under 15 is drowning. So the boys had to learn how to swim and dive before they could start their journey out of the cave.
Thai Navy SEAL divers worked on installing a fiber-optic cable so the team could get on the internet and talk to their families.
Countries including Australia, Britain, China, Israel, and the United States begin providing resources and helping out in the rescue.
- Linh Pham/Getty Images
Three expert cave divers from the UK and a team of 30 divers from the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command begin working with the Thai Navy SEALS. China and Australia also sent experts and rescue workers to Thailand.
Israel’s Maxtech Networks provided radio devices that helped rescuers maintain communication with the soccer team after they were discovered in the cave. The devices provided voice, data, and video access.
Thursday, July 5: Authorities drain water from the cave.
Rescuers can now enter the cave up until the third chamber, located about 1 mile from the cave’s entrance without using scuba gear.
Hundreds of pumps drain floodwaters from the cave, and water levels are reduced about 40% in some areas. But miles of the tunnel is still full of water. According to The Guardian, about 3,400 gallons of water are being pumped out of the cave per hour.
If they can drain enough water out of the cave, the boys could maybe even walk out.
Experts worry the soccer team is not well enough to be moved from the cave yet.
- Thai Navy SEALS/Screenshot
Friday, July 6: A Navy SEAL working with the rescue team dies.
The diver, identified as 38-year-old Saman Kunan, had been delivering oxygen along the cave for the boys and coach, when he died due to lack of oxygen.
It was the only fatality from the rescue.
Saturday, July 7: Oxygen levels in the cave continue to drop as authorities become more concerned that it won’t have enough time to save the team.
- Linh Pham/Getty Images
Oxygen levels in the cave have been quickly depleted by an influx of rescue workers in the cave, and levels in the area where the boys are trapped have dropped from the usual 21% to 15%.
Officials begin working to supply the boys and their coach with oxygen through a 3-mile cable running through the cave’s winding chambers.
Sunday, July 8, 11 a.m.: A rescue operation begins to save the 12 boys and their coach from the cave.
The only way to bring them out of the cave is by navigating dark and tight passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents. The path out is considered especially complicated because of twists and turns in narrow flooded passages, some only 2 feet wide.
About 0.6 miles of the journey out of the cave is underwater.
Two divers accompany each boy, guided by rope. The boys then walk from Chamber 3 to the mouth of the cave, which has been mostly drained over the last few days of the rescue operation.
7:55 p.m.: The first four boys are out of the cave.
- Linh Pham/Getty Images
The four children were healthy and taken to the local hospital after being rescued. The rescue mission concludes for the night because of low oxygen levels.
Monday, July 9, 5 a.m.: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posts photos and video from inside the cave.
Thai authorities and representatives for Musk begin discussing the possibility of using resources from Musk’s companies to help rescue the boys’ in the cave, including using technology from SpaceX, Tesla, or The Boring Company.
Musk suggests a series of tubes could be sent through the cave network and inflated, creating a tunnel for the team to travel through without needing to scuba dive. He later scraps that idea, and starts testing a “kid-size submarine” in Los Angeles to put the boys in and bring them out of the cave.
On Tuesday, Musk posts photos on his Twitter account from inside the cave. “Mini-sub is ready if needed,” he wrote. “It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team.”
Narongsak Osatanakorn, the Thai official leading rescue operations, said they didn’t need Musk’s sub.
“Although his technology is good and sophisticated, it’s not practical for this mission,” the rescue chief said.
9 p.m.: Four more boys are rescued from the cave, bringing the total to eight who have been rescued.
Some of the same rescue divers who got the boys out on Sunday went back in on Monday. They would have traversed about 10 miles total on the two trips.
On the second day, four more boys make it out with the divers.
All eight boys are recovering in the hospital well and are expected to stay there for a week to get fully healthy.
Four of the boys and their coach remain stranded in the cave. The rescue team takes another break Monday night to rest and reset the oxygen tanks.
Tuesday, July 10, 6:38 pm: The remaining four boys and their coach are rescued from the cave.
All 13 members of the soccer team are now rescued out of the cave and safe. They join their teammates in recovery at the hospital.
They were in the dark for so long that they had to wear protective sunglasses when they emerged from the cave.
The world celebrates: “Mission accomplished.”
- Linh Pham/Getty Images
The world watched as the heroes found the boys, and successfully got them all out of the cave over three days of daring rescues. Tributes pour in as everyone celebrates their safe return.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what,” the Thai Navy SEALs wrote on their Facebook page. “All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.”
Thai authorities held a celebratory press conference where they said: “We have done what others thought was impossible.”
Wednesday, July 11: The soccer team recovers in the hospital.
Health officials are keeping the team in isolation for a few days, treating any cuts or scrapes they have, re-nourishing their bodies, and monitoring whether they develop lung infections from any fungi or bacteria in the cave.
Video shows them smiling and waving from their hospital beds.
After 17 days trapped inside the cave, they are safe.