The inspiring story of the Chilean miners, who were trapped under ground for 69 days in Copiapó in 2010, turned a ragtag group of working-class men into one of the most unlikely groups of celebrities in history.
After dominating the attention of the world’s media, “Los 33” went on to tour the world. They were flown to see top-flight football games and shake hands with world dignitaries. In China, a 20-ton, 40-foot-tall statue was forged in their honor; dozens of writers from around the world claimed to have the dirt on their story; and in the United States, a top-flight producer was signed on to make the Chilean saga a Hollywood block-buster.
Now the spotlight is being shone on the people who engineered this remarkable rescue. An exhibition in the South Kensington Museum of Science is currently displaying Fénix 2, one of three capsules used to retrieve the miners from their underground prison.
“I’m sure we can all remember the moment when the first miner was pulled to the surface after being trapped for almost 10 weeks,” Katrina Nilsson, from the Science Museum, told the BBC.
“By showing the capsule at the museum, we hope to draw attention to the technical and engineering challenges that the rescue team tackled during this extraordinary operation.”
Fénix 2 is one of five custom rescue pods built by Chilean Navy engineers. As an exact duplicate of the one that was used to haul the men to safety, Fénix 2 was used in test operations, as part of the exhaustive process of ensuring that everything went smoothly in the ground-breaking rescue effort.
Not only will visitors get a chance to see some of the technical features of the pod – the custom-made retractable wheels that prevented it from slamming against the sides of the shaft, and oxygen enrichment tanks – but they will also have a first-hand experience of what it must have been like for the miners on their cramped and grueling journey to the surface of the earth.
The exhibit will run until May 13, 2012.