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Still high from the rescue

The Australian Treasurer Peter Costello delivered his annual Budget Speech last night, which by all accounts panders to just about everyone a little bit but not enough. Milkshakes all round! There's not much blogging response to that yet (some mentions at Larvatus Prodeo, Anonymous Lefty , Electron Soup , Queer Penguin , Machine Gun Keyboard . These are all my fellow moaning lefties, but I'm sure Catallaxy and Tim Blair will have stuff from the other side later in the day).

But we'd all still much rather think about the miners. The newspapers are still full of them, and certainly every time another little nugget comes up on the radio I get a big goofy grin.

Addendum: how could I have forgotten to link to a photo gallery?

The Australian has a strong collection of "Great Escape" stories today:

Eye to eye with valuable quarry
Recounts what went on underground between the digging, drilling and blasting, with especial mention of the black humour that sustained both miners and rescuers through the danger:

Dean "Macca" Mackrell, 37, spent much of the past fortnight in the mine's "morale group", talking to the men.

He spent a lot of it "shit-stirring", he says at the Club Hotel in Beaconsfield, which opened just after dawn and was soon filled with miners. One of the first things he asked Russell and Webb when a communication line was established was how the Jenny Craig diet was going.

After rescuers managed to get a 9cm PVC communication pipe through to the men, which became their lifeline, delivering food and water, and later little luxuries such as iPods, Mackrell says he could hear Webb singing.

He put his mouth down to the pipe and in a low voice said: "This is Big Brother. You are singing without a microphone. That is a $5000 fine." He says Webb and Russell "roared with laughter".


Darren Flanagan, an explosives expert from Nowra in NSW, described how during blasting stages of the rescue, he and Russell and Webb would do their countdowns together, the two trapped miners bracing for impact while Flanagan held a phone in one hand and a firing box in the other. He says that at one stage, Russell, knowing he had 1000 tonnes of rock on top of him that could bury them both, called him "a big girl" because he thought the explosives he was using were too weak.


Despite nine days of anticipation, no one was prepared for the moment when Russell and Webb walked unassisted out of the minehead. Or when Webb yelled as he left the mine in the back of an ambulance: "You can't kill me - you can't kill me." Or, four hours later, when he simply checked himself out of Launceston General Hospital.

The Australian: At last, the light of day

Essay in the Australian:John Birmingham: Tragedy, triumph and farce
Sorrow and joy will coexist while the meaning of Beaconsfield is contested, says John Birmingham.

Herald Sun: Miners' fitness stuns doctors

Many people have said how made for a movie treatment this great story is. Crikey had a great script outline article in their email newsletter yesterday, where I learnt something that even the attending media didn't realise at the time. Did you know that this story even has a faithful dog?

Most ozbloggers have stuck to the miners' story like glue, because it's the most riveting drama to unfold for such a long time, but I think I like Anonymous Lefty's take on the rescue and the media reaction to it best.


Anonymous said...

A great story, with an almost-perfect outcome: just fantastic!

I'm intrigued with some of the pollies' comments after, especially John Howard's quote of the rescue being a "triumph of Australian mateship" and Kim Beazely's description of it being "an epic of mateship".

What IS this thing called mateship, mate? IIRC, Howard wanted it written into the constitution, or the preamble at least. Is it peculiar to Australia alone? Inquiring minds, etc...


tigtog said...

Mateship is the base of the Anzac foundation myth, although it was certainly a feature of Australian popular culture during the nineteenth century as well - the stories of Henry Lawson are full of it, for example. It seems to be a Kiwi phenomenon as well, although perhaps they have adopted a Maori word for it that is more popularly used, I dunno.

It is however a numinous concept, difficult to define. Examples of it are generally those of self-sacrifice and generosity to help a mate in trouble, and thus were easily refined and dramatised in war situations such as the landing at Anzac Cove and rescues such as that of the mine. After all, every one of those rescuers was a volunteer working where another rockfall could be triggered any tick of the clock, and even the mining company stepped up to the mateship plate by financing the lot (this rescue cost millions).

I think the main feature of antipodean mateship that distinguishes it from other cultural examples of group solidarity in crisis situations is that it emerges spontaneously from a group of disparate backgrounds, rather than from a tradition of esprit de corps, tribal affiliation or religious fellowship. It's a totally secular phenomenon, characterised by laconic teamwork and larrikinism. This is probably largely to do with the very mobile nature of Australian frontier society and a distrust of institutions.

IMO, Howard wouldn't know genuine mateship if it danced on a table in front of him drenched in mateship musk - it's purely a political appropriation. Beazley is no less political, but I think he does know what mateship is.