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The Chilean Mine Collapse In Terms I Understand

I now know how I will be spending the next four months – waiting for the thirty-three miners in the mine collapse in Chile to be brought to the surface. Considering that I spent the last few months waiting for BP to do anything right, this will hopefully be a more refreshing venture.

A Factual Perspective That Gives Me No Perspective

Two tall towers—CN Tower, Willis Tower—from ce...

Image via Wikipedia

These people are 2300 feet underground. That is more than 4/10 of a mile from sunshine.

Here is a graph depicting some of the worlds tallest structures – the Burj Dubai, the CN Tower, and the building I will call the Sears Tower, even though I know that isn’t its name any more. You’ve surely seen pictures of the Burj Dubai. These guys are nearly one Burj Dubai underground.

I get creeped out in a dark basement. These miners go thousands of feet underground on a daily basis. Nearly three weeks ago, the way back up became no longer a viable option. They have been down in the earth ever since.

Early this week they were found to be alive, to the delight of their families and their nation. When they finally got a phone link down to them, the thirty-three miners sang the Chilean National Anthem.

They have survived all this time by carefully rationing their supplies - two spoons of tuna, sips of milk and a biscuit every forty-eight hours.

Imagination Helps Put This Into Perspective

It occurred to me to try to find a way to understand what this must be like for those miners. I decided to approach it by changing the cast to me, and thirty-two people I work with. The thought made me shudder.

Try it from your perspective. Think of thirty-two people you work with. Don’t cheat and pick your favorite thirty-two. Get yourself a good mix of your lunch buddies and the people who improve the work environment every time they call in pretending to be sick. Close your eyes and imagine all those people in a dark area. The cell phones don’t work,there is no music, no escape from each others personalities even for a second.

Could you imagine your group rationing the food like that? How long would it take for people to start really getting under each others skin? What would happen when the phone came down and you heard you’d all be remaining in your 500 square foot refuge for four more months?

My Results

I compressed myself and my thirty-two people into a twenty by twenty-five foot space. I included some of my favorite co-workers and a few that I don’t like quite so much, like The Singing Guy, Blackberry On The Toilet Guy and The Boss. Here are my projections of what might be going on in our mine:

Days 1-5 – Once we get over the fright of realizing we can’t get out, we’d probably organize and start rationing our food like the Chilean miners. The Boss would try to take charge. It would not go well for him. The remainder would organize despite him and without his input. Finally able to put him in his place, the remaining thirty-two of us would be a cohesive group, The Boss would be miserable. Sometimes it isn’t good to be the king.

Days 5-15 – Blackberry On The Toilet Guy periodically turns his device on and tries to get a message out. He complains about poor service from AT&T. The rest of us are upset because that light is blinding. He falls asleep at some point and the battery is mysteriously removed from his Blackberry.  When he wakes and discovers he can no longer thumb type memos to himself he loses control. The rest of us have to restrain him, no small feat in these crowded conditions.

Also during this period we reach agreement that no stories are to be told that have food in them. The Boss votes against it because it wasn’t his idea.

Day 18: The Singing Guy launches into a medley of songs from the musical, Rent. He is gagged.

Day 19: The food supply is holding out, but I am starting to think that I don’t like tuna, even when it is the only food we have.

Day 20: Drilling sounds. One of the more organized of the party forms a committee to decide what we’re going to say or do when the phone comes down. Inexplicably, the committee chooses to sing the Chilean National Anthem.

Trapped miner me would be dreaming of a Cuban mix from 5 Brothers

We also agree that the ban on stories involving food can be lifted. I begin telling stories of the best places to get a Cuban Mix Sandwich. I insist that the best ones anywhere else in the US pale in comparison to those available in Key West. Someone across the dark chamber says “speaking of pale, maybe we ought to ask them for some sunscreen before we leave here. Good point.

Day 21: The drill breaks through and a phone is delivered. We try to sing the Chilean Anthem, but realize none of us know the words. Blackberry guy says he will look it up if we give his battery back. It isn’t worth all that. We opt to go with our alternate, the Thomas Dolby hit “She Blinded Me With Science“.

We’re all thrilled to be going home…and then they tell us that we should be able to do that in four months. Singing Guy works his gag loose at this moment and starts singing “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. It gets ugly at this point, so I’ll stop here.

It Is Going To Be A Long Four Months

Those poor miners are no doubt ready to come up today. Their families would love to have them back up too. I’m going to keep them in my thoughts. Based on my little mental exercise, those people are certainly stronger than I am. I’ll be happy to see them squinting in the sun soon.

8/27/10 update – here is the video released by the chilean government of the miners in the mine. amazing.

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23 Comments on “The Chilean Mine Collapse In Terms I Understand”

  1. queensgirl says:

    Days 20 and 21 are my favorite. :D

    I hope the months will go by quickly for these admirable miners.

  2. betty says:

    32 co-workers and myself underground in a 500 sf room? I can think of at least four who are not coming out alive. And that would be after only 3 or 4 days. Umm…where are they going to the bathroom?

    • omawarisan says:

      See, that is one of the things I’m thinking. How is it that hasn’t happened. If you put any 33 people in that space, in the dark, sitting on rocks and living on tuna someone is going toget clocked with a shovel…but not these guys. They are great.

  3. Fist bump to the miners and I hope the days pass quickly and peacefully.

    Love your scenario–it is scarily realistic.

    How would your boss figure out toilet arrangements?

    PS–If it had been a BP mine they probably wouldn’t have bothered to build the 500 square foot shelter–too much of a drag on shareholder return.

  4. Wow…I don’t think this is something most of us could comprehend living through…I get stressed when my power is out for more than an hour!

    Enjoyed your take on it…hoping it doesn’t take four months to get those poor guys to the surface!

    Wendy

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m with you on the power being out. I’m isolated from the planet the moment it happens, hate it. Oh and if they’re working on the water lines and I can’t turn on the sink, I am instantly thirsty.

  5. planetross says:

    Poor bastards.
    I guess on the positive side, at least they know that someone is doing something to rescue them. Those “Alive” guys in the Andes didn’t have that luxury.

    note: I looked at a news article about this and the google generated add attached to it was “Call Chile for .8 cents a minute” … I thought it said “Call Chilean Miners” for a second there.

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh man, the Alive guys, good call. They had no contact until they were getting in helicopters months later.

      What must if be like to be friends with one of those guys. When that hypothetical plane crash discussion comes up, you know he knows he would eat you with some peas and carrots if it came down to it.

      Calling Chilean miners…”hey is your refrigerator running?

  6. Todd Pack says:

    All I know is those Chilean miners are made of sterner stuff than I am.

  7. spencercourt says:

    > singing “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

    And just think what a world sensation they’d become if they spent all that time before being rescued learning a synchronized dance routine to that song, just like the Filipino prisoners who have that YouTube video of “Thriller.”

  8. I would volunteer myself for tuna-replacement after the first “who farted?” – these guys are amazing. I hyperventilate just looking at a European elevator. Wow. I sure do hope they work out something quicker than 4 months.

    • omawarisan says:

      I keep thinking they’re saying 4 months so people dont say “you said two months, whats the hold up?” Or however that would come out in Spanish.

      European elevator…nice!!

  9. [...] August 24, I wrote about the miners being rescued in Chile. Give it a quick look and note the graph. Hmmm…famous tall buildings to give a perspective on [...]

  10. Pie says:

    This is one hell of a story. I think those miners are kings. I know it’s only 20 odd days and counting, but I don’t expect many people would be able to endure being trapped underground for very long. Certainly not celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton who couldn’t even do a full jail term, a situation of their own making. I enjoyed your take on how it would be if it happened to you. I’m slightly outside of the work colleague thing as a temp/freelancer, but I’m sure I can think of a few people I have encountered along the way. Thankfully most of them have been good ones and not like your boss. Or The Singing Guy.

    I’m hoping that the four month prognosis was just a case of putting out a worst case scenario. If they can be out by October that would be fabulous

    • omawarisan says:

      They are amazing. I know they have their dark moments, but can you imagine the spirit those guys showed in their video coming from most people after a couple weeks confined that way?

  11. Your factual perspective on the mine disaster inspired me to come up with my own factual perspective on my blog – http://fliederfloxx.blogspot.com/2010/09/im-too-pretty-to-do-math-or-too-stupid.html – Unfortunately I’m not very bright, so the results weren’t nearly as impressive as yours. Kudos to you!

    • omawarisan says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I looked at yours…you know how to do math that you know how to check your math and fix it? That’s impressive, I’ve got no shot at ever doing that.

  12. [...] few weeks ago I thought through the possibility of being similarly trapped. To complete the thought and to be prepared for any circumstance I am submitting my day by day to [...]


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