After the initial media hubbub in August over the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed copper and gold mine outside of Copiapo, Chile, news updates from the rescue effort have been slow and infrequent... but initial estimates said the rescue effort would likely require four months of drilling. Given the original announcement that the miners would likely not be rescued until Christmas, you can certainly be forgiven if you were one of the many people surprised as news of the miners’ impending rescue made the rounds on Saturday. So if you are now finding the details of the whole ordeal somewhat hard to recall, don’t sweat it. We’ve put together a succinct timeline to help you review.
August 5: A collapse in a copper and gold mine some 450 miles north of Santiago, Chile, traps 32 Chilean and 1 Bolivian miners 2,300 feet below ground. Whether or not the workers safely reached a small emergency refuge will remain a mystery to those on the surface for an excruciating 17 days.
August 22: Rescue workers establish first contact with the buried miners via a narrow hole drilled down into the emergency shelter. The 33 had survived by rationing their provisions; each miner consumed a mere “two teaspoons of tuna fish, a sip of milk and half a biscuit each every 48 hours.” The bore will be used to supply the miners with fresh air, food, water, medicine, communications equipment and eventually even an iPod. Celebrations on the surface are tempered by an official announcement that it will likely take four months to dig a 26-inch-wide shaft through which the men can be pulled to safety.
August 27: Chilean health minister Jaime Mañalich tells the media that five of the miners have succumbed to depression in response to estimates that the final rescue wouldn’t take place until December. The Chilean government calls upon NASA doctors, submarine commanders and other experts on mental health maintenance in extreme circumstances to help design a diet, exercise and entertainment regimen that will keep the men stable for the duration of their stay underground.
August 29: Pope Benedict says he is praying for the miners.
August 30: Drilling commences on three separate rescue shafts: "Plan A," "Plan B" and "Plan C." Miners work in shifts around the clock to clear debris pushed through pilot holes by the descending bit.
September 2: 26 days after the initial collapse, miners receive their first hot meal of meatballs, chicken and rice. Prior to this, the men had survived on glucose tablets and high-protein milk.
September 4: Several survivors from the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, who in 1972 had been stranded for over two months in the Andes Mountains, arrive at the mine to show their solidarity with the miners. "In the same way we were able to get off the mountain and lead normal lives,” said Pedro Algorta, one of the crash survivors, “[the miners] too will get out and lead fantastic lives."
September 17: After 18 days of drilling, a pilot hole for the Plan B rescue shaft reaches the shelter. Though estimates for the rescue date have been pushed forward dramatically, it will still take weeks for the hole to be reamed (or widened) to a diameter wide enough to accommodate a human body.
September 24: The miners, who have at this point been underground for a record 51 days, celebrate Chile’s bicentennial by singing the national anthem and sending a signed flag up one of the supply chutes.
September 30: The families of 27 of the 33 miners file a lawsuit against the San Esteban group, which owned and operated the mine. They demand $27 million, or $1 million per trapped miner. The Chilean government seized the company’s assets shortly after the collapse. San Esteban filed for bankruptcy in early September.
October 4: The head of the Plan B operation announces that the reamer is now only 160 meters from the miners and that they may start pulling the men up as soon as the weekend. This is two months earlier than initial estimates suggested.
October 7: In anticipation of the miner’s final ascent, a team of firefighters, navy medics and mine rescue specialists have gathered near the mouth of the rescue bore. It will take half-an-hour for each miner to complete the 2,000-foot trip to the surface.
October 9: The rescue shaft reaches the miners. Unfortunately, due to concerns over the integrity of the freshly-hewn shaft, the 33 will have to wait for engineers to buttress the shaft with a mesh lining. This means a few more days of waiting before being hoisted out of the cell they have called home for the last two months.
October 12: The rescue begins. Florencia Ávalos, 31, is the first to be hoisted to freedom amid cheers and tears on the ground.
October 13: 22 hours later, around 10 p.m. local time, Luis Urzua, the mine foreman, steps out of the rescue capsule. (Six rescue workers who went down into the mine will come up shortly after, leaving the mine empty for the first time in two months.)