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PBS, ‘Nova’ Capture Rescue of Miners for DVD

2 Nov, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

For 69 days 33 Chilean miners were trapped 2,300 feet underground. Never before have that many miners been trapped for so long or so far down.

Three rescue teams and more than 1,000 engineers, scientists and other experts from around the world worked to get them out alive. And the “Nova” documentary TV team was there to capture it all.

“Apollo 13 is what it feels like,” said Howard Swartz, executive producer of Emergency Mine Rescue, which aired on PBS Oct. 26, and gets a DVD release March 8 (order date Feb. 8; $24.99). “You snatch success from the jaws of defeat. It came down to science, engineering and sheer willpower.”

“Nova” cameras had special access to the site of the San José mine, with footage above and below ground, animation of the underground tunnels, and unreal access to the three teams charged with figuring out how to punch through nearly a half-mile of solid rock.

Swartz said “Nova” made the decision early on to document every aspect of the rescue it could, catching the drama as it unfolded, a worldwide drama that last more than two months.

“No one had been trapped this long before or this far down,” Swartz said. “It was man and technology vs. nature. It was truly an amazing story. I was following it minute by minute, hour by hour. There were so many potential, devastating setbacks.

“It has the ‘Will they or won’t they survive’ element to it.”

The feat of engineering — including the on-site interview of Laurence Golborne, the Chilean Mining Minister, the man coordinating the rescue, and Brandon Fisher of Center Rock, the Pennsylvania company that provided the drilling equipment and solution that freed the men — plays a huge part in the documentary, Swartz said.

But so too did the psychological and physical impact on the miners, with interviews with the miners’ families, footage from “Camp Hope” where the families stayed, and interviews with medical personnel and NASA experts, whose insight into spaceflight and submarines helped provide Chilean authorities with medical advice regarding their psychological welfare and “re-feeding” the men when they emerged.

“We knew we wanted to get this thing on air within two weeks of the rescue,” Swartz said. “The challenges were immense.”

Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS distribution, said the title will see broad distribution across electronic delivery platforms, and possibly a future Blu-ray Disc release.

“They did an amazing job,” she said of the “Nova” team.

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