Monday, October 11, 2010

True Survivors!

Port Townsend, today. When I think of "Survivors" I think of men like these 33 miners who have been trapped in a hard rock mine in Chile since August. Unlike the trash TV "survivor" programs, featuring narcissistic contestants deliberately eliminating each other, these men are genuine survivors.

And they have one more test of their mental and physical endurance, as they are encased in a steel cage, and pulled 2,362 feet - nearly a half mile - from beneath the high Chilean desert. A journey that, by some estimates, can take up to 45 minutes!

I experience a claustrophobic response when I look at the rescue capsule those Chilean miners will ride to the surface. If you have ever endured an MRI scan, you will empathize with me.

Try this demonstration: I am 6'0" tall. I pressed my shoulder against a wall, and measured to the outside of my opposite shoulder. The distance between my shoulders, arms tight against my side, is just over 20 inches, about 20.5"

Measure across your shoulders. What did you get? Now compare your findings with the inside diameter of the rescue capsule the miners will ride: 54 cm, or 21.3"

[Click to view. Click on magnifier to read]

The ordeal began back in August. Thirty-three miners were trapped underground when part of the San Jose Mine in Chile's Atacama Desert collapsed on August 5th. A second collapse on August 7th, blocking access to the lower parts of the mine.

The San Jose Mine, 800km (500 miles) north of Santiago, is mined for copper and gold. The main path - reaches down to 720m (2,362ft) below the surface. More than 1,000 journalists have descended at the location. As of Monday morning, more than 220 different media houses, from 40 different countries are registered on site.

The 2.5m-long, 250kg steel capsule rescue pod was built by the Chilean Navy. The miners will be wearing made-to-measure, lightweight, waterproof clothing, and sunglasses for the rescue. They will also wear a biometric belt to measure their vital signs as they are lifted to the surface. They will wear a small oxygen mask and have headphones and a microphone giving them constant contact with the surface. They will not be sedated, so they can communicate with the rescue team.

[Click to view. Click on magnifier to read]

If the capsule gets stuck, the men will be able to release a series of levers inside and be winched back to the bottom of the mine.

Following a medical check, the men will be allowed to proceed to the rest area, with chairs and tables, where they will be reunited with their closest family members. Thirty four private cubicles have been constructed, where family members will be reunited. Spiritual and psychological counselors will be immediately available. Numbers are limited to two family members per miner. Psychologist's say families can be psychologically demanding and people who have been in confinement for long periods tend to find it easier to meet a few close people rather than everyone at once.

However, at least five miners may dread rescue. Several women, waiting at Camp Hope, discovered they are praying for the same fellow!

In the days ahead, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, doctors from various specialties, agents seeking magazine, film, book, and TV reality series, and, of course, attorneys, will be scrambling for the consideration of the survivors.

However, nothing can be as terrifying as what they leave behind. We wish the miners well.

2 Comments - Click here:

Wayward Son said...

CNN this morning reports 12 miners are on the surface and the rescue is ongoing. Great to know this is ending well. We see tragedy and failure too often on the news so it's fantastic to have these men safe after their long ordeal.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Not widely reported, probably because the news folk were sitting around drinking cool ones exchanging war stories with each other, is he role the miners played in their rescue.

Three holes were drilled. 5 1/2" pilot hole, and a 12" guide hole to "steer" the 28" rescue hole.

Rubble from all this activity was landing in the chamber where the miners were at. So they were pressed into service "mucking" the trailings from the drill bits.

The Chilean Navy built 3 pods, two as back ups, and plans A B C were underway from the top. Plan "B" ran into a steel support beam of the mine and was shattered. Plan "C" was stopped when fears arose its vibration would collapse Plan "A."

Although the cable attached to the pod looks slender, it is ultra strong braided steel cable used in ski lifts, donated by Germany. The pod, it turns out made 10 to 12 twists as in descended and ascended.

Finally, the owners of the mine are "begging" for compassion and forgiveness.

Did I miss that memo from the owner of the West Virginia coal mine?

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