Chile has been galvanized as a nation, as the entire world tuned in to view the rescue of 33 miners last week, according to CNN. The miners had been trapped 300 feet below the surface in the San Jose Mine near Copiapó for 68 to 69 days prior to the successful rescue mission, using a narrow tube called a Phoenix to bring each man up one by one. The men were in surprisingly excellent health, considering their condition, and managed to work together so cooperatively they have agreed to split nearly all of the income expected to result from their sudden international fame.
The fame and attention lavished on the Chilean miners is reminiscent of the 1972 crash of the Uruguayan rugby club. The situation apparently struck a chord with the Uruguayan survivors as well; four of them sent a message of support to the miners early in the ordeal, according to NOL.nl.
As described by The Independent, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was en route to Chile on Oct. 13, 1972, when the Fairchild FH-227D began to descend too early due to pilot error. The plane lost both wings and the resulting crash killed a quarter of the passengers and crew, while cold, injuries, and an avalanche caused several others to perish. Of the 45 people on board, only 16 survived.
While the entire crew died, the passengers were primarily Old Christians Club rugby union team members from Stella Maris College, Montevideo, their family, and their friends. With limited supplies, the group managed to live for 72 days, resorting to cannibalism of the dead in order to survive. Realizing no help was coming and that soon they too would die, two young men, medical student Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado, undertook an expedition to find help. They succeeded, returning with rescue helicopters over two days to pick up the rest of the survivors.
The fame and notoriety of the event launched Uruguay on the international stage, drawing attention to their plight and dramatic story. Parrado would later state in his book, Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home (with Vince Rause), as found on Amazon.com, that their ordeal and subsequent rescue were matters of national pride, noting that they had committed no sin according to church doctrine for eating the dead; all of the passengers and crew were Roman Catholic.
While all of the Chilean miners survived, it can equally be said that they have given pride to their nation and, if promises are kept this time, an opportunity for a serious reappraisal of mining conditions in Chile and, hopefully, in other parts of the world.
CNN.com “Riding to the surface for a carefully planned reception”
CNN.com “Chile mine rescue”
Ciaran Byrne,”Andes crash hero relives icy ordeal” Independent
NOL.nl, “Support for Chilean miners” (In Dutch)
Nando Parrado, Vince Rause “Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home” Amazon.com