Issue 4/2010 - Editor's viewpoint

The power of 33

The recent successful rescue of the miners trapped down a copper and gold mine in Chile threw up many superstitions about the occurrence of the number 33. Total number of miners trapped was 33; confirmation that they were still alive came during the 33rd week of the year; drilling the rescue shaft took exactly 33 days; and the day of the rescue was 13/10/10, the numbers of which add up to 33.
It was widely reported that the miners’ strong religious beliefs helped to sustain them during the 69 days that they were trapped, and they saw it as no coincidence that Jesus Christ was crucified at the age of 33.
Whatever people believe about the magic of that number 33, there is no doubt that the rescue operation was a truly international effort, which involved government agencies, public and private companies as well as individual volunteers from around the world.
Led by the Chilean government and its state-owned mining corporation, the rescue was achieved ahead of schedule by employing the latest technology and resources from around the world, the main contributions coming from Latin America, South Africa, Australia, the United States, Canada and Austria. Even specialists from NASA were called in to help develop a health agenda for the miners drawn from their experience with men spending long periods in isolation.
In a race against time, three separate rescue tunnels were drilled simultaneously using three different drilling techniques, since nobody was sure what was ‘the right way’. As speed of drilling was the most important factor, it is no surprise to find that diamond tooling played a part, being employed in the drill bit that eventually broke through the roof of the mine.
The rescue of the Chilean miners was a remarkable effort from all involved and is a wonderful example of people pulling together to achieve the near impossible. The article on page 13 tells the whole story.