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10 great escapes

By: MNN Admin on Oct. 12, 2010, 4:39 p.m.
Miners emerge from Beaconsfield Gold Mine in 2006

Photo: Ian Waldie/AP

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Tasmanian mine collapse

When a magnitude-2.1 earthquake hit Tasmania on April 25, 2006, the damage didn't seem too bad at first — until word spread that it triggered a rock collapse in a gold mine near Beaconsfield, leaving three miners missing. All three were initially feared dead, but five days after the quake, investigators used a thermal-imaging camera to find two of them still alive, trapped 3,000 feet underground.

The two miners survived their first week by rationing a cereal bar and licking water from rocks, but soon received meals via a pipe from the surface. They were also given an iPod with their favorite music, an idea suggested by a psychologist to keep their spirits up. The miners drew global praise for their stoicism and even humor, at one point jokingly asking for classified ads to help them find new jobs.

Rescuers used explosives, rock splitters, handheld drills and diamond-tipped saws to carve out an escape tunnel, and the two miners — Todd Russell and Bryant Webb, pictured at left and second from left — were finally freed after 14 days. But the rescue was bittersweet, coming just hours before the funeral of a colleague who didn't survive.