On 12 October 2010 the world’s attention was fixed on a remote copper mine in the Atacama desert in Chile. Final preparations were underway for a daring rescue to bring to an end the longest underground entrapment in human history.
69 days earlier, 33 men were midway through a routine shift, deep in the San Jose mine. They stopped for lunch at the tiny safety shelter, 688 meters below the surface. Ten minutes later they heard an almighty crack and a deep rumbling sound. Clouds of dust and debris poured down on the choking men. The bombardment lasted for five hours. When it finally cleared the men discovered they were trapped under tonnes of collapsed rock.
17 days after the collapse, a drill finally reached them. They sent a note back to the surface: ‘We are well inside the shelter, the 33’.
Building on the exclusive access he was given by the rescue team, and dozens of hours of interviews with the miners themselves, Jonathan Franklin takes us deep into the collapsed mine with the men, and behind the scenes of the rescue effort to bring them back to life.
For 17 days, hope slowly turned to desperation and then resignation as the miners prepared themselves for a slow agonising death. When a drill finally got through to the men, they still had over seven weeks to wait until they were freed. What those men experienced in the claustrophobic dark of the mine, how their families kept faith, and the unprecedented scale of the rescue make this an unforgettable story of how hope overcame fear,ingenuity triumphed over adversity and how 33 trapped men and the rescuers dedicated to saving them created a miracle in the desert.
By Jonathan Franklin (13 Oct 2011)