We love the Chilean miners. And really, who doesn’t? From the runner to the doctor to the adulterer—yes, him too—they captured our attention and showed us how much a group of men, working together, can actually survive. Because of that, we put them at number eight on our list of the Top 10 Good Men of 2010. We said:
We cared about the Chilean miners because they represented the best of humanity—cooperation for the common good, hopefulness in the face of the most desperate circumstances. Even under such inhumane conditions, their duty, selflessness, and composure reminded us that when life is at its worst, we can still be at our best.
Yes, that’s still all true, but it turns out it wasn’t so easy.
According to a segment from this past Sunday’s 60 Minutes, all but one of the 33 miners have experienced serious psychological problems since being rescued. At one point before the rescue, their food rations were down to just one can of tuna between the entire group. The group held hands, praying that the can would somehow multiply. At this point, Victor Zamora contemplated suicide :
I said to a friend, ‘Well, if we are going to continue suffering, it would be better for us to all go to the refuge, start an engine and with the carbon monoxide, just let ourselves go.’ It was to not continue suffering. We were going to die anyway.
Washington Post and Guardian columnist Jonathan Franklin wrote 33 Men, the so-called inside story of the Chilean miners. He made an appearance on 60 Minutes and mentioned that some miners had joked to another miner that if he died in his sleep, he’d be “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” Except they weren’t joking. Mario Supelveda, the de facto leader of the group, said that in five or 10 more days, they would’ve resorted to cannibalism:
Food or no food, I was going to get out of there … I had to think about which miner was going to collapse first and then I started thinking about how I was going to eat him … I wasn’t embarrassed, I wasn’t scared.
In Franklin’s book, which was released yesterday, he also mentions that the miners had requested they be sent down sex dolls, but doctors declined the request after they could only find 10 dolls. They feared jealousy might creep in if there wasn’t a doll for each miner. Yes, jealousy over a blowup doll.
Franklin also says that the miners were sent marijuana and pornography in letters from family members.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. With 33 guys trapped underground—little food, dwindling hope for salvation, and no entertainment—things were bound to get weird. As a whole, they came together to do something that, really, was superhuman. But individually, each miner was just a man, trying to come to terms with what could’ve been the end of his life. Sex dolls, drugs, suicide, and cannibalism all take on a different meaning through such a desperate lens.
But how do you guys feel? After reading some of these details, do you still look at the miners in the same way? Do they still deserve a place on our list? Or has your opinion changed? Let us know.