Archive for October 2010

A Salute to Chile’s Phenomenally Successful Mining Rescue

14 October 2010

Just now, after almost 24 hours of non-stop trips by the Phoenix (Fénix) Capsule, the last of the 33 Chilean miners has just emerged from 70 days of entombment in the bowels of the earth in the Chilean desert. Chile has gone wild with joy and pride and celebrations. The rest of the world is joyous and open-mouthed at the epic feat. Four or five helpers remain 625 metres below ground and are now being brought up one by one, but, barring accidents, this magnificent and inspiring Chilean and international enterprise has succeeded.

Psychologists explain the intense public interest in the miners’ plight by attributing it to our atavistic fear of being buried alive. Maybe, but perhaps it is more likely that our interest and attitudes are triggered by our sadness and rage that our loved ones (like ourselves), once dead and buried, do NOT (and cannot possibly) come back “to the surface” of the Earth. These 33 courageous and mentally strong men have done just that and so, having shared a little of their intense angst and apprehension, we are overjoyed that death has been cheated in this epic way and that they are reunited with their grieving families – who, unlike other mourners, can now stop grieving. The men, with the support of their countrymen and families, have achieved the impossible, especially through their own monumental courage and endurance. They deserve to be “happy ever after”.

For the record: The distance covered by the capsule on its 33 mercy runs (625 metres each way) is just over 40 kilometres (25 miles). Fénix (and its valuable potential for future rescues) can now be examined and stored away, and the miners and their families can now undertake a period of well-earned rest and recuperation from their ordeal.

With special thanks to the BBC for its non-stop coverage for the world to witness this extraordinary event.

Here is the first reaction by Chile’s major newspaper (El Mercurio) to the beginning of the arduous 34 hour operation:

“Luego de 69 días de angustia a casi 700 metros de profundidad:
Chile conmueve al mundo al iniciar con éxito el mayor rescate en la historia de la minería.”

“¡Fue posible! A las 00:12 horas salió Florencio Ávalos, el primero de los 33 mineros.”
*
“After 69 anxious days nearly 700 metres underground:
Chile moves the world with a successful beginning to the greatest rescue attempt in mining history.”

“It was possible! At midnight Francisco Avalos, the first of the 33 miners, reached the surface.”
*

View the Chilean Miners Rescue – Live on BBC 2

13 October 2010

For the past 7 hours the minute by minute rescues (8 so far) have been available to (?millions of) awed and emotional viewers on BBC2 TV. Why not join them in this uplifting spectacle of GOOD NEWS, bravery, tenacity and solidarity?

With fervent wishes for the successful completion of all 33 rescues and for the safe return of the specialist rescuers who descended via the pod to assist the miners.

With sincere congratulations to the Government and people of Chile – and to the BBC for allowing us to share in this extraordinary event!

Reference:
Joy as first Chile miners freed

The Chilean Miners Rescue Attempt. News Update

9 October 2010

Latest Update at 11.36 pm Tuesday 12 October, Chilean time (hora chilena):
In an astounding world first we have all just witnessed in real time from a camera 2000 feet down in the miners “home”, the “landing” of the rescue pod and the emergence of the rescue worker. He hugged all the miners.

If all goes to plan, he will now return to the surface – or will he sneak a miner into the pod first? – and the lengthy process of lifting the miners from their temporary tomb will begin!
See below for background – and a ref. to the ongoing BBC2 LIVE broadcast. It is going to be a long night in Chile!
*
UPDATE on Tuesday 12 Oct, 11.25 pm Chilean time:
Preparations to begin the long rescue
have been under way all evening. After two final hours of tests on the slim rescue capsule or pod, a rescue worker (Manuel González) has just begun his descent to the 33 trapped miners at a speed of one metre per second. If all goes well, the first of the miners, Florencio Avalos, may soon be raised to the surface – and to the LIGHT and the glare of the international media cameras.
In an act of positive international solidarity (as well as professional media initiative) the whole world is able to watch the proceedings minute by minute. In UK, BBC 2 is covering the whole event live all day (or night). In Australia, the ABC TV 24 hour news channel is also running a feed of the BBC initiative.

It is such an exciting but nervous moment as we all WILL those brave miners to be rescued and returned, at last, to their equally admirable families by this complex technological feat.
Viva Chile!
**

(My original now outdated Friday blog follows, for residual “historical” interest.)

Here is the report issued by the major Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio on Friday 8 October. See original here.

Drill B was only 71 metres from the miners, whereas Drill A was to be halted because it was still 30 days from the target area. The Minister for Mines stated that they hoped to reach the trapped miners late on Friday or on Saturday (Today). The article also gives more details of the extreme care that is being taken to try to ensure a happy ending to this prolonged incarceration.

FINGERS CROSSED.
Les deseamos muchísima suerte a los 33 mineros valientes y a sus familias.

“El plan “A” (Strata 950) sería paralizado ya que le quedan 30 días de faena:
La perforadora T-130 podría llegar hoy al taller de los 33 mineros

El llamado plan “B” quedó a sólo 71 metros de la zona en donde se encuentran los atrapados. Trabajo en los últimos metros del ducto se hará con extremo cuidado.

MATÍAS ROVANO Y SOLEDAD NEIRA
COPIAPÓ.
“La planificación oficial del Gobierno y del equipo de rescate indica que la perforadora del plan “B” debe llegar mañana sábado al taller, que está a 624 metros de profundidad. No obstante, ya que la T-130 está a sólo 64 metros de su objetivo, el ministro de Minería, Laurence Golborne, afirmó que “con un poco de suerte, podríamos adelantar la llegada del sábado al viernes (hoy)”.
Una vez que la perforadora rompa el techo del taller, el equipo técnico introducirá un escáner y en base a los resultados decidirá si es necesario encamisar o hacerlo parcialmente.
Una primera evaluación determinó roca muy agrietada en los primeros 100 metros, pero más delante hay roca más dura y resistente (ver infografía). Dependiendo de si se instalan los tubos de 24 metros de extensión y un diámetro de 66 cm por donde avanzará la jaula, el proceso para iniciar el rescate demoraría entre 2 y 8 días.
La T-130 reinició durante la mañana de ayer su trabajo luego de una detención de 20 horas. En ese tiempo se cambió el martillo y se aprovechó de revisar el ducto mediante un escaneo. Golborne precisó que la máquina continuó la excavación a un ritmo de 2 metros por hora.
En el trayecto, la máquina pasó cerca de una galería (528 metros), pero no se registraron desprendimientos de roca, por lo cual se pudo seguir avanzando.
Los rescatistas aumentarán las precauciones en los metros finales, “pues en la perforación anterior, en 12 pulgadas, tuvimos un momento clave allí, hubo atrapamiento de la barra y por lo tanto tenemos que esperar a que el pozo se termine para tener una resolución”, dijo el ingeniero Andre Sougarret.
Ayer volvieron a operar los tres planes simultáneamente, luego de una serie de inconvenientes. La Strata 950 (plan “A”) comenzó a perforar en los 587 metros con un nuevo trépano, mientras que el plan “C” alcanzó los 350 metros, pero se tomó la decisión de continuar excavando con un diámetro de 17,5 pulgadas para corregir una desviación en la perforación.
Golborne esbozó la idea de paralizar el plan “A”, porque le quedan 30 días de trabajo. Además, su excavación no debe interferir con el rescate a través del plan “B”.
Chequean tiempos de traslado, y hospital ya alista equipo para el “día D”
Trece minutos le tomó ayer al helicóptero Bell 412 de la FACh cubrir la ruta entre la Mina San José y el Regimiento de Copiapó, en el ensayo del rescate final en superficie de los 33 trabajadores atrapados. A la ambulancia que esperaba el helicóptero le tomó otros cuatro minutos recorrer los 400 metros que separan al regimiento del Hospital de Copiapó. En ese recinto ya están definidos los 27 funcionarios que recibirán a los pacientes. “La directora del servicio de Salud, Paola Neumann, me dijo que quería contar conmigo. Para mí es un honor ser parte de este rescate histórico”, contó el dermatólogo Juan Carlos Mellibosky, mientras en el hospital sólo falta instalar el “black out” para recibir a los 33.
En suma, el ensayo buscó revisar los protocolos de traslado, para “garantizar que no vayamos a cometer un error”, dijo el gerente regional de la ACHS, Alejandro Pino. Así, se chequeó la capacidad del helicóptero y la mayor parte del simulacro se concentró en el movimiento de la cápsula, ejercicio que se hizo muy cerca de los ductos que sacarán a los trabajadores.”
(MATÍAS ROVANO and SOLEDAD NEIRA, El Mercurio, Santiago de Chile, 8 October 2010)

Background Reading on Contemporary India

7 October 2010

The purely economic pluses and minuses of staging the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will become apparent long after the Games are finished, as is the case with many of these ambitious international sporting events. Much more immediate will be the effect on overseas opinion of the publicity generated by the intense media coverage of the Games over these 13 days. A more personal form of publicity which will be spread around many countries is that of the thousands of visiting athletes and spectators. It is therefore to be hoped that a wider interest in travel to India, with her varied exotic offerings, will be a positive result of the 2010 Games, eclipsing the effects of the unfortunate (but unavoidable) negative publicity and nervousness which preceded the Opening Night.

Those eager to acquire a balanced picture of contemporary India may enjoy the following selection of recent books by travellers who have provided us with very detailed accounts and analyses (warts and all), based on lengthy periods of residence and observation.

Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods (The Strange Rise of Modern India), London, Little, Brown, 2006. (Also: New York, Doubleday, 2006.)
Interviews and observations of India by the Financial Times’s correspondent from 2001 to 2005, during which time he learned Hindi and married an Indian wife. Highly recommended by Mark Tully, Professor Amartya Sen, and William Dalrymple, among other cognoscenti, Luce offers a wealth of insight and information, and includes analyses of the changing caste system, the status of India’s Muslims and the rise of Hindu nationalism.
See William Grimes’s Review: ‘The Power and the Potential of India’s Economic Change’.
Sample: “Much of the book consists of interviews and colorful vignettes intended to illustrate the myriad statistics that, out of context, can numb the mind. The blend of anecdote, history and economic analysis makes In Spite of the Gods an endlessly fascinating, highly pleasurable way to catch up on a very big story.”

Christopher Kremmer, Inhaling the Mahatma, HarperCollins, 2006.
An account of various aspects of contemporary Indian history and life based on seven years of travels and residence in India between 1990 and 2001 by a journalist and writer who took the trouble to learn Hindi and established very close contacts with influential Indians. Like Edward Luce, Kremmer married an Indian woman.
A recent REVIEW by Richard A. Johnson.

Sarah Macdonald, Holy Cow. An Indian Adventure, Sydney/London, Bantam Books, 2002.
An Australian journalist’s entertaining and informative account of contemporary life in India.
(A suitable bestseller for air travel.)

Sir Mark Tully
The doyen of British correspondents in India over the past 40 years, renowned in the UK and in India. His work in presenting India to the overseas English-speaking world has been recognised by awards from Queen Elizabeth II and the Indian Government. For this basic orientation list the following two works are recommended.
No Full Stops in India, London, Penguin, 1992.
The Heart of India, London, Penguin, 1996.

Bill Aitken
Like fellow Indiaphile and septuagenarian Mark Tully, Bill Aitken has spent several decades of his life living and interacting with Indians and writing about them and about India. Like Tully, he is well known in India, where he has lived as a naturalised Indian citizen for nearly fifty years.

Aitken’s special interests are spirituality, travel, climbing, the Himalayas, and Steam Railways.
The Penguin Introduction to two of his works reveals that “He has lived in Himalayan ashrams, worked as secretary to a Maharani, freelanced under his middle name (Liam McKay) and undertaken miscellaneous excursions – from Nanda Devi to Sabarimala – on an old motor bike and by vintage steam railway.”
For this basic list on “India for foreigners”, I recommend three samplers of Aitken’s specialised oeuvre.
Footloose in the Himalaya, Delhi, Permanent Black, 2003.
Of the three mountaineering travel books by Aitken that I have read, this latest one is the best, full of fascinating detail, observations and adventure.

The Nanda Devi Affair, Penguin Books India, 1994.
Aitken’s very special spiritual climbing quest.
Branch Line to Eternity, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2001.
His travels on the last railway steam engines operating in India.

Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa, Out of God’s Oven. Travels in A Fractured Land, New Delhi, Viking, 2002.
An investigative book by two Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), based on six years of travel and interviews on contemporary Indian issues.
(For an Asia Times Online review by Jason Overdorf in March 2003, see here.

Overdorf comments: “In a book of remarkable scope, the two writers address many of the seminal events of Indian history of the past three decades, ranging from riots by Dalits (formerly untouchables) …”

William Dalrymple
Dalrymple has harvested considerable acclamation and fame from his many scholarly works on India and Indian history. His latest book on spirituality in India has become a best seller (like most of the books on this list):
Nine Lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, London, Bloomsbury, 2009.
These nine exotic interviews on very diverse aspects of religion were prompted by Dalrymple’s desire to investigate the present state of religious beliefs in India following a period of great economic and social change.

Trevor Fishlock, India File, 2nd edition, New Delhi, Rupa, 1987.
One of a distinguished line of British correspondents in India, Fishlock first published this slim volume in 1983. His first chapter, ‘Inheritance’ (pp. 1-19) is still well worth reading.

Europe in Decline: The UK Contribution

4 October 2010

For several years now the media has been presenting evidence of a collective decline in European morale. Some of the evidence of the ‘late Great’ Britain’s contributions to this sad state of affairs is regularly chronicled by contributors to The Spectator. In its issue for 18 September 2010, the upmarket British magazine offers a package of “Thought Crime” special articles as further proof of the pernicious currents at work in UK which are undermining its traditional liberal values and beliefs.

The main articles of the series are:

Melanie Phillips, ‘I Think, therefore I’m guilty’.
“Britain is a liberal and progressive utopia – and the authorities will arrest anyone who disagrees.”

Alan Rusbridger, ‘How to stifle the Press’
“Numerous reports on our defamation laws have found that they have a chilling effect on free speech. Only last month President Obama signed into law an act protecting American citizens from British libel judgements.”

Christopher Booker, ‘Scientists in hiding’
“Academics who dare to question the scientific establishment’s consensus on Darwinism or global warming increasingly find themselves ostracised and demonised.”
……..
“… fanatical intolerance, in defence of pseudo-scientific causes which reflect the prejudices of the age, has become only too common …”

Hardeep Singh Kohli, ‘Last laughs’
“With the help of the internet, politically correct vigilantes are monitoring jokes and suffocating comedy.”

(Relevant blogs on Global Warming are here, and here, and here.)