The amazing survival of the miners during the first 17 days before they were found

I’ve been catching up on the Chilean mine rescue, a story I had not followed. Here, from Wikipedia, is the account of how contact was first made with the 33 trapped miners, 17 days after they had been trapped.

Exploratory bore holes

Percussion drills (rotary hammer drills) were used to make 6 boreholes about 5.5 inches (15 centimeters) wide to find the miners. The rescue effort was complicated by out-of-date maps and several boreholes drifting off-target because of notoriously hard rock that exacerbated the drill’s tendency to drift. On 19 August, one of the probes reached the area where the miners were believed to be trapped but found no signs of life.


On 22 August at 07:15 CLT, another probe reached a ramp, at 688 meters (2,257 ft) underground, about 20 metres from a shelter where the miners were expected to have taken refuge. The miners had listened to the drills approaching for days and had prepared pre-written notes to their rescuers on the surface as well as making sure they had adhesive tape to secure the prepared notes to the drill once its tip poked into their space. The notes surprised the rescuers when they pulled the drill bit out and discovered the letters; the miners having survived longer than anyone had expected. At 15:17 CLT, President Sebastián Piñera showed the media the note after it had been placed in a document protector, sent from the miners’ shelter far below, written on a piece of paper with a red marker, that confirmed the miners were alive. The note read: “Estamos bien en el refugio los 33” (English: “The 33 of us in the shelter are well”).

Hours later, cameras sent down the bore hole made contact with the miners, taking the first images of the trapped workers. The miners had a 50 square meter shelter with two long benches but ventilation problems had led them to move out to a tunnel. In addition to the shelter, they had some 2 km of galleries in which to move around. The miners used backhoes to dig for trapped water. Some water was obtained from the radiators of vehicles inside the mineshaft. Health officials are running tests on the water. Food supplies were limited and the men may have lost 8 to 9 kg (17–20 pounds) each. Although the emergency supplies were intended for only two or three days, the miners rationed them to last for 17 days until contact with the surface. They consumed “two little spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk and a biscuit every 48 hours” and a morsel of peach. They used the batteries of a truck to power their helmet lamps.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 13, 2010 09:46 PM | Send

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