69 days, 33 miners were trapped in the San Jose copper and gold mine
in Chile after a rockslide closed off their exit. But now, with
of an escape capsule designed by NASA, the miners are being
carried back to the Chilean surface to be reunited with family as
well as seek medical attention.
miners have been trapped 2,300 feet below ground level since August
5. They were discovered 17 days after the rockslide, and have
survived until now due to rescue workers lowering water,
food, medicine and other supplies down to the men.
this same time in late August, NASA
dispatched a four-man team to the mine. The team consisted
of Clinton Cragg, a NASA engineer; Michael Duncan, a doctor; James
Polk, a doctor, and Al Holland, a psychologist.
began designing an escape capsule that could fit in a hole the size
of a bicycle tire, and handed the finished plans to the Chilean navy,
who built the capsule. The finished product was a 13-foot long, 924
pound steel rescue craft that had an escape hatch at the bottom. It
was named "Fenix," after the mythical bird that rose from
ashes. The Fenix capsule is very narrow, where miners have barely
any room to move their shoulders, but contains a safety
harness, a device to communicate with rescue teams and a clock.
Saturday, a drill finally reached the underground chamber where the
33 miners were trapped. During the early hours of October 13, rescue
teams put Cragg's escape capsule to use and sent it down the hole in
an effort to bring each individual miner back up to the surface.
each miner is being pulled from the ground one by one inside the red,
white and blue capsule. The first miner to rise from the "Fenix"
was Florencio Avalos, who was greeted by chants and cheers of
"Chile!" He arrived at the surface at 12:11 a.m.
overwhelmed with emotion because it's been so long since we have seen
him," said Alfonso Avalos, Florencio's father. "I'm very
proud of him. Thanks to God he got out and looks good."
process has repeated itself throughout the morning, bringing each
miner to safety through a half-mile of rock. It takes approximately
50 minutes to lower the capsule and bring it back up. Each miner is
to wear moisture-resistant green coveralls on their ride up to the
surface, and the most "fit" miners were to arrive to the
surface first so they can advise rescue teams with the "technical
know-how" surrounding the
situation below. Those who were weakest will come out next, and
finally, Luis Iribarren, the shift supervisor, will come out last.
Rescue teams expect the last miner to arrive at the surface sometime
the rescue teams, family and friends present as the miners arrive at
the surface was also Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who hugged
and greeted Avalos as he stepped onto Chilean ground for the first
time in over two months.
had promised to look until we found them," said Pinera. "We
can all feel proud to be Chilean."
miners looked relatively healthy as they walked out of the Fenix
capsule. Health Minister Jaime Manalich noted that there were only
minor problems associated with the miners' health, and that rescue
was "going extraordinarily well so far."
this point, just over a dozen miners have been rescued
from the mine, and are being sent to a nearby hospital for
medical attention before being allowed to go home to their families.
extremely exciting for us," said Jeff Hart, a lead driller with
the rescue team. "It's a very emotional moment for us. We worked
real long and hard on that, and to actually see the capsule come
through the first time through the hole that we drilled was just