In a happy ending that at one point seemed highly improbable, all 12 boys and their soccer coach have been rescued from a cave in Thailand where they have been trapped since June 23. The boys ranged in age from 11 to 16, and their coach was only 25 years old.
The ordeal began June 23 when the boys and their coach disappeared in the Tham Luang Nang Non system during what was supposed to be a routine field trip. Rising waters quickly cut off their retreat, forcing them to camp out for over a week on a muddy slope.
For more than a week, there was no sign of the boys. While families held out hope, many people assumed that they were dead. Volunteers came from around the world to help in the search.
On July 2, British divers finally reached the small cave where the boys had been holding out. They had reportedly survived by drinking drops of water from the cave walls.
To make matters worse, the air in the small cave was starting to wear thin. By Saturday, the oxygen levels were down to 15 percent. The minimum safe level for oxygen is around 21 percent.
Due to rising floodwaters, the only way in or out of the cave was a long and narrow passageway, that at one point narrowed to just 15 inches wide — so narrow that divers had to take off their scuba tanks and hold them out in front of their bodies.
The route was so dangerous that Saman Kunan, a professional diver who was also a former member of the Thai Navy SEALs, died traveling the route between the soccer team and the cave exit.
How long did it take to rescue the boys?
It took rescuers six hours to reach the boys and five hours to exit. Rescue workers managed to drain the cave enough to make it the journey slightly shorter, but the quickly approaching monsoon season threatened to completely block the escape route, and potentially even flood the small area where the team had been living.
The rescue had to be done in shifts so that air tanks could be replaced along the route. A nearby hospital has blocked off an entire floor for the team members and their families as they recover.