We are all ok in the refuge, the 33 of us. Let's play! Photo credit: Wikipedia.

In 2010 33 Chilean (1 Bolivian) miners became trapped over 2,000 feet below ground when there was a collapse in the San José mine north of  Copiapó in the Atacama desert. The nation, and indeed the watching world, held their collective breaths hoping beyond hope for signs of life to emerge from deep beneath the ground. Some two weeks into the rescue mission, the drilling teams reached the small shelter towards the bottom of the mine not knowing whether some or even any of the miners had survived. Upon arrival at the surface the drill bit was discovered to have a message attached to it. The now immortal words read:

ESTAMOS BIEN EN EL REFUGIO LOS 33

We are well in the refuge, all the 33 of us…..but how were they afterwards?

On Monday the 28th of March 2011 7.00pm, the BBC broadcast (BBC2) Chilean Miners: What happened next as part of the This World series which gives a fascinating insight into the post-entrapped lives of the miners and how they cope with the mental and emotional trauma of the harrowing accident itself as well as with the new-found fame that is thrust upon them. Really good stuff:

Chilean Miners: What happened next from Pacha Films on Vimeo.

Director Angus Macqueen talks about his experiences with the Miners and in his second documenary (The Chilean Miners: 17 Days Buried Alive) on his blog


An equally intriguing documentary was broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 on Wednesday the 27th of October 2010, called Buried Alive: The Chilean Mine Rescue. You can watch it here:

From the 4OD website:

On 5 August 2010, all 33 of the day shift miners at the San Jose mine in Chile were missing and feared killed when their copper and gold mine collapsed. For 17 days no one knew whether they were alive or dead.

Miraculously, after all hope was lost, on the 17th day the specialist drilling rigs looking for signs of life smashed through into the tunnel where the men had been clinging on. All 33 of the men were alive and well.

Channel 4 were given unprecedented access to the drilling rigs, engineers and medics for the definitive story of how this audacious rescue was carried out.

Buried Alive: The Chilean Mine Rescue follows the extraordinary story of the 33 miners, trapped underground for 70 days. Above ground, the Channel 4 film makers had unique access to document the highs and lows of the drilling teams as they pounded their way through almost half a mile of granite.

Below ground the programme follows how the miners survived for so long and hears first hand from the doctors and psychologists who were keeping them alive and sane, giving extraordinary insight into the underground hell they had to endure.

The rescue of all 33 Chilean miners has been an extraordinary feat of ingenuity and daring. This documentary explains in detail the challenges they faced and the technology they used to overcome all odds.

Buried Alive: The Chilean Mine Rescue gains unique access to the key players involved to tell the story of the tireless, tough and emotional effort that went on at the San Jose Mine, away from the glare of the news cameras.

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