Untold Survival Story of Chilean Miners Revealed in New Book

Almost four years after they survived a harrowing 69 days trapped in a mine, the story of how 33 Chilean miners survived has been detailed in a new book. The book, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free,” was penned by Héctor Tobar. Tobar is a journalist who was given exclusive access to the miners. The book could lead to a long-anticipated movie.

Tobar’s book details how the Chilean miners survived a mine collapse 2,000 feet below the surface for more than three months as the world hung anxiously on every small detail of their harrowing survival.

The 100 year-old mine, known for its primitive condition, suffered a massive explosion that led to the miners being trapped inside. A block of rock as large as a 45-story building fell through the top of the mine, collapsing exit ramps and trapping the Chilean miners inside.

The men survived on a small supply of food, which is described in detail in the book. Their food supply included “1 can of salmon, 1 can of peaches, 1 can of peas, 18 cans of tuna, 24 liters of condensed milk (8 of which are spoiled), 93 packages of cookies –“some that men ate secretly”– “and some expired medicines.”

Meal time was managed by Chilean miner Mario Sepúlveda, who emerged as a group leader during their time underground. Sepúlveda helped ration the food by lining up “37 plastic cups in rows and spoon one teaspoon of canned fish into each cup, then pour in some water, making a broth. He [then passed] out two cookies to each man. ‘Enjoy your meal,’ he says. ‘This is delicious stuff. Make it last.’ That single meal, at noon, likely contains fewer than 300 calories and is meant to hold them all until the next noon.”

They also had a small supply of “a mere 10 bottles of water.” Eventually, they also started to use some of the thousands of liters of water normally used to keep the mine machinery cool. Though not exactly potable, it was just enough to keep them alive.

Toward the end, the men were living off of one cookie every other day, and one man went temporarily blind, one of “the first signs of a common side effect of hunger, caused by vitamin-A deficiency.”

While still trapped in the mine, from which all 33 Chilean miners were eventually rescued, they made a pact that the rights to their story would be equally shared–and profited from–by all of them.