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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Blast From The Past

(Somehow, this never made it to the blog. Now it has.)

Who could not be spellbound by it?
The rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days.
The wonders of modern television bought it to us – and a couple of medico bozos, a Rudd-clone Chilean president and a nagging social conscience ruined it for us.
At first, watching the drama unfold, I gave heart-felt thanks that the feed was coming from Sky UK and was not provided by the chuckleheads populating Sky’s Australian counterpart.
Unfortunately, the dulcet tones of the British Sky anchors were supplemented by a couple of home grown chuckleheads: a doctor and a psychologist.
We watched with bated breath, hour after hour, while the rescue team test-drove the rescue capsule and the Sky mining expert intoned about the dangers involved, even though he confused the punters with his geological geometry.
“It was drilled by a rigid rod, though there appears to be an 11 degree angle in the shaft, which of course, equates to a one degree incline: clearly they are concerned about the cable rubbing on that 11 degree curve, though of course it equates to 1 degree – and I’ll leave it to the mathematicians watching to work that out.”
Okay, there may be problems with 1 degree curve that may be an 11 degree curve – the mathematicians at home know the answer, but Sky didn’t bother to ask any of them that answer.
What Sky did bother to do, unfortunately, was to ask Sarah, “our medical expert”, what she thought.
What Sarah thought, apparently, was that the broadcast needed more drama, as if the rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for two months was the mining equivalent of a Volvo: dull, colourless and extremely boring.
We are told by the Sky anchors that the first miner to egress was chosen because he was calm, professional and phlegmatic.
AND THERE HE IS! The calm, professional and phlegmatic miner, specifically chosen for his calm, phlegmatic professionalism, is ON THE SURFACE! And, by god, he is calm, professional and phlegmatic.
While the rescued miner was being calm and phlegmatic, Sarah was having kittens in the studio: “Amazing”, says Sarah. “He is so calm and professional. This is why this gentleman was chosen.”
The second miner, we are told, is the extrovert of the trapped group.
AND THERE HE IS! The second miner is out! He hugs his wife and hands out chunks of rock to all and sundry before rushing off for an MCG Bay 13-style ‘Chile, Chile, Chile: Oi, Oi Oi’, high-fiving lap of honour.
This extroverted man, we are told, was dubbed The Presenter because he dominated news reports sent to the surface. The suspicion that he recognised a money-making opportunity PR opportunity when he saw one lurks, but is best left undeveloped. 
Just a quick refresher: the first ‘gentleman’ was chosen because he was ‘calm, phlegmatic and professional’. The second ‘gentleman’ was known as “The Presenter”, an extrovert. A known exuberant gentleman.
And what does Sarah make of this: “I’m very concerned about this reaction. I’m wondering what drugs these gentlemen have been given”.
Having said that, Sarah is “pleased with how well groomed the second gentleman looked”.
Sarah, and her psychologist side-kick Mark, are very concerned about the disorders these gentleman may be suffering.
“The trip in this relatively small, claustrophobic capsule will be so daunting for these men. Claustrophobia, post traumatic stress, psychic numbing after the emergence, hint to the possibility of avoidance behaviour, the idea of going underground may be highly evocative for him, what drugs?”.
This was hard to take coming from two people who’s, most likely, only underground experience has been catching the tube from their plush London office to their plush London digs.
The truth is that Chilean miners, like their counterparts everywhere else, are tough and phlegmatic hombres who would view a 630m journey in an escape capsule through a rock shaft in much the same way as your average office Johnny would view a 30-storey lift journey from the ground floor to their office.
Probably the only difference would be that the miners wouldn’t panic if the lift got stuck on the 15th floor.
Riveting viewing, marred by commentary best presented at the bottom of a 630m mine shaft.
Finally, the moment that everyone, if not waiting for, was forced to endure: the Chiliean president's appearance.
Piggybacking on the efforts of everybody else, El Presidente – with Mrs El Presidente prominent at his side and presidential teeth prominent at the front - made it is his mission to extract as much political mileage out of the rescue as possible.
El Presidente tried to give the impression that he, personally, had dug the rescue shaft with a tea-spoon and hauled up the miners in a mixing bowl attached to a reel of Chilean cotton spun by his wife.
Who knew that Bruce Hawker was proficient in Spanish??
Lastly, the social conscience. Only a churl would begrudge the Chilean miners their rescue. Like everybody else, I hoped for a miracle and it was duly delivered.
One can’t help thinking though, that the thousands of children forced into slavery in mines of all colours and hues on the African continent – the Congo springs to mind - and, indeed, in some South American countries, wouldn’t mind the same effort being put into rescuing them.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of tv ratings in that gig, so maybe they’ll have to wait a bit longer.