With the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners whom have been trapped over a mile underground for some two months, let us look back at other famous rescues in history. Dramatic rescues occur nearly every day. People trapped inside burning homes and buildings, people stuck in dangerous places like the side of a mountain or under debris from an earthquake. We can all think of examples of famous rescues. Three which I believe have historic significance are the rescue of Titanic survivors by the Carpathia, the Sheppton mine rescue and Apollo 13.
With technological developments of undersea telegraph and telephone cables, and the Marconi wireless radio, news which used to take days, if not weeks, could spread globally at an instant. The tragedy of the RMS Titanic was one of the first major events that was related to Humanity by such technology. On April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and began to sink. The ship’s radio operator sent out a message using a brand new distress code — S.O.S., which was received by the vessel RMS Carpathia. Despite the threat of icebergs to his own ship, Captain Arthur Henry Rostron, ordered the Carpathia to the scene at full speed.
Around 4am in the morning of the 15th, the Carpathia reached the scene and rescued 705 passengers of the ill-fated Titanic. When news of the event reached the world, Capt. Rostron and his crew were hailed as heroes. They all received awards and medals. Rostron and his officers were presented with a silver cup by Margaret “Molly” Brown, one of the survivors. The Captain also received the Congressional Gold Medal from the U.S. Congress and was a guest at the White House at the request of President Taft. Sadly, the Carpathia herself became a victim, when she was sunk by the German submarine U-55 on July 17, 1918.
In August 13, 1963, a cave-in at an anthracite mine in Sheppton, Pennsylvania began the drama of this famous rescue. Three miners were missing, David Felin, 58, Henry Throne, 28 and Lou Bova, 54. During a 14-day period, this famous rescue captured worldwide attention when a borehole drilled at the insistence of Felin’s brother, Joe, revealed that two of the men, Felin and Throne, were still alive after 5 days underground. At first, no effort was planned to attempt a rescue, but Joe Felin convinced officials to drill.
On August 18, a 6-inch borehole reached a cavity in the mine some 330 feet down, and nearly hit David Felin in the head! When rescue workers heard noises, they realized that there were still men alive. The news flashed around the world, and soon, TV crews and reporters from across the globe descended on Sheppton to cover the dramatic story. A larger 17.5-inch hole was drilled with equipment loaned by the infamous Howard Hughes, which reached the trapped miners on August 27. David Felin and Henry Throne were pulled out using a parachute harness and a football helmet from their underground shelter. Lou Bova, it turns out, had died the day of the accident while seeking another cavity in the mine. The headlines of newspapers worldwide carried the news, “MINE MIRACLE”.
Finally, the most out of this world rescue could be said to be that of Apollo 13. Launched on April 11, 1970, (at 13:13 Central Time) she carried commander Jim Lovell, LM pilot Fred Haise and CM pilot Jack Swigert on what was to be NASA’s third manned moon landing mission. But on April 13 an oxygen tank exploded in the vessel’s Service Module, crippling the ‘Odyssey’ Command Module. Running out of electricity, which were powered by oxygen/hydrogen-fed fuel cells, the crew quickly entered the ‘Aquarius’ Lunar Module.
Too far away to simply turn around, NASA engineers and flight controllers quickly determined the best course of action was to have Apollo 13 fly around the Moon in a ‘Lazy 8′ . For the next four days, the three astronauts survived in the Aquarius, using the two-man Lunar Module as a lifeboat. Two critical burns of the LM’s engines were needed for the plan to work. Even then, the mission was still froth with danger, such as when the carbon-dioxide levels began to rise to a lethal level. NASA engineers at Houston came up with an ad-hoc fix which allowed the astronauts to use the square CO2 filters from the Odyssey to fit the round filtration system of the Aquarius. The crew returned to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific on April 17th, as the entire world watched on television.
There have been famous rescues all through history. The current event in Chile of the 33 miners being pulled up from over a mile underground after 2 months is perhaps the most dramatic rescue yet. But, as we have seen, only in the past century, beginning with the Carpathia’s rescue of Titanic survivors, has the technology been available to tell the story instantly thanks to the Marconi wireless radio. The Sheppton mine disaster in 1963 was the first major rescue that was televised. Seven years later, the famous rescue of Apollo 13 captured the world’s attention as the entire globe watched and held it’s breath. Today’s rescue of the 33 Chilean miners could be said to be the first major rescue of the Internet Age, with live feeds and resources like Twitter keeping people around the world informed.