Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Where nature may win

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  • Russell Clarke, in reply to 3410,

    Career Limiting Move.

    -36.76, 174.61 or thereab… • Since Nov 2006 • 164 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask if forward planning is all it could be.

    That's not how you've phrased it, though. You've attacked Knowles, pretty much directly, as incompetent. I explained, several times, that while Knowles is "in charge" he's not controlling the technical aspects of this incident. Several times you came back with more attacks on him, and on the Police in general, and asked why it wasn't a mine rescue expert in charge. At some point, I get sick of answering the same question when it's just rephrased, especially when it keeps on being phrased as an attack on someone who's doing a very hard job.

    Could the forward-planning be better? Yes, possibly. But some of the things you want just don't exist. Pike River is a coal mine, not an oil well. They don't generally drill for stuff, they send in big diggers and cutting machines and grind their way through the ground. That there's any drilling rig available is good, never mind the several that you want them to have. Could they have arranged a second robot? Maybe, but there is still a legitimate need to have an EOD robot available to the military and the experts (real experts, with doctorates in this kind of stuff) have said that it's an extremely specialised niche, there's only really a single robot of the required sort in the world, and that robot isn't in NZ or Australia.
    They had an equipment break-down, which required them to stop and repair the drill. It happens. So you attack them for not having spare motors, never mind that with or without a spare it would still have taken time to retrieve the drill, get the motor going again, and return to drilling. Hence my comment about a magical existence where things happen at the speed of light.

    If you want to ask questions, then do it. But phrase them such that they're not attacks on Knowles and the incident management team. Or based on expectations that aren't possibly realistic. There's lots of information out there about what the geography is like at Pike River, including plenty of aerial footage from the last few days. There's lots of information out there about what the risks are that're keeping the rescuers out. There's lots of information out there about the use of robots in mines rescue (the history is not good). The answers to many of your questions are out there if you want to see them, and for the questions about how it's being run from an emergency management perspective I've given you plenty of answers and provided links to the Wikipedia articles on how the entire structure works.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Lott, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    3410, I think there’s valid questions to be asked about the forward planning in terms of sourcing equipment before it’s needed as well. I hope the post-whatever assessment looks at that.

    Much as I think there has been a great deal of professional pragmatism displayed under obviously trying circumstances, I'm getting the increasingly uncomfortable impression that planning for the rescue seems to have been serial rather than parallel: apparently waiting for robot 1 to fail before getting robot 2 in line when it seems that robot 3 is the actual robot for the job. Did it really need to take 5 days to get robot 3 organised? It's very hard to make informed criticism from the armchair, but the impression has been building that not every possible resource has been thrown at this job in a timely manner, whether or not that is the actual case. I have no idea how complex the logistics really are, but progress does seem to have remained at a frustratingly slow place, especially if we are really considering it likely that at least some miners have survived the blast.

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    Robot 3 from West Australia is apparently something custom built by engineers for the water authority over there to operate in drains.

    It was offered after the Media man for the water authority (a kiwi following events in NZ) put two and two together and put the offer of the robot together.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I think there’s valid questions to be asked about the forward planning in terms of sourcing equipment before it’s needed

    Yes, possibly. However, keep in mind that this equipment is very specialised. A lot of it is not available in NZ. Where it’s available in Australia, a lot of it has come with the NSW and Queensland Mines Rescue teams. However, they still have mines in operation and it’s a basic principle of emergency management that you never strip the cupboard bare. Murphy’s a fucker like that. Same with not bringing both NZ's EOD robots straight to the mine, particularly when the advice from experts is that it’s not really what they’re designed for, and they’re not intrinsically safe.

    Should the robot from the US have been sought earlier? Yes, probably. But sometimes these things just aren’t considered, especially if those at the coal face (I’ll get my coat) haven’t used particular technology before and don’t know what does and doesn’t work. History is replete with examples of people making decisions that turned out to be wrong because they didn’t know there was another, better way of doing “it”.

    Lessons will definitely be learned, and not just for NZ. The Aussie guys will take back lessons too, and both countries’ mine rescue bodies will be the richer for it. Fortunately we don’t have huge experience with incidents such as this, but that carries the trade-off that we don’t have huge experience with incidents such as this and how to resolve them. Some lessons are only learned from bitter experience.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    not least John Campbell himself. So WTF is going on?

    TV3 is a business run by accountants. It’s purpose as far as they are concerned is to make more money. That is what accountants do, which is fine. The problem is accountants shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions that affect the purpose of a company, In this case the purpose of TV3 news is to provide news, an accountant will never understand that.

    But you know all that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3256 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Lott, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    OK, having read Matthew's post, it would be correct to say that the logistics of this really are very complex indeed. Pike River is at the far end of the world from most available help and resource, the geography is a huge challenge and so on. But I do think that the impression is one of avoidable slowness in some areas. That impression may be incorrect, but then I think we're back to the debate about news media coverage as information vs "entertainment"...

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Shaun Lott,

    I have no idea how complex the logistics really are, but progress does seem to have remained at a frustratingly slow place, especially if we are really considering it likely that at least some miners have survived the blast.

    Well, sure: it's frustrating. But it is complex, you are talking about "impressions", and given that there could not possibly be one more iota of pressure on all concerned to get things sorted ASAP, I'm not sure how the speculation helps. In particular, given that robots are absolutely not standard mine rescue equipment, it's not surprising at all that it would take time to organise them, and longer to get them in from the US and Australia. You'd have trouble getting people over here immediately, and that's without having to ascertain that the robot is in fact at all suited for the job.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    My impression after watching the press conference was that the team [Inspector, Mine CEO, Commission, Minister] were building us up to having less hope of this ending with any good news at all. The video was part of that.

    I think so. And I don't think it's unreasonable to ask why the video could not have been released to media (or at least shown to the families) sooner -- although it clearly wouldn't have had any impact on the rescue either way.

    It's clear from the presence of Howard Broad and Judith Collins at yesterday afternoon's presser that the government is concerned at the pressure going on Knowles.

    The irony for me was that Knowles was far more composed than Broad, who was struggling to form proper sentences when he spoke.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18666 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Shaun Lott,

    A big problem with modern media coverage is that it never stops. Things "take forever" because we expect to know instantly when something happens. Getting the drains robot from WA is pretty much a day-long task, because of the distances involved. Flight from WA to Christchurch is about eight hours, getting the robot crated up for air freight, after first ensuring it's absolutely sterile because it's going to another country, is probably another four-to-six hours. That's an eternity in the non-stop news cycle, whereas in the "good old days" it's just the time between a couple of editions of a newspaper, or a couple of evening news bulletins. Getting the robot from Utah is about three days of effort!

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to st ephen,

    Quite -- sorry about the venting backwash there, Stephen. I know a good dry cleaner who is a demon for biohazardous stain removal. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11856 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s clear from the presence of Howard Broad and Judith Collins at yesterday afternoon’s presser that the government is concerned at the pressure going on Knowles.

    Concerned, and I think also showing that they absolutely support him. It's when they disappear that you know Knowles is being cut loose. Being in-frame with Knowles demonstrates their confidence in how he's handling it, and you don't get a bigger gun that the Commissioner, even if he is on his way out.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    You've attacked Knowles, pretty much directly, as incompetent.

    Either quote me or retract the allegation, please.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to 3410,

    Yes, sorry, my bad. Tom was the one who called Knowles incompetent.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    a frustratingly slow place

    Yup.

    But a couple of things to note, no robot has ever been successfully used in a mine rescue. So getting upset because we didn’t have enough robots quickly enough is a bit pointless. They are using robots because there is nothing else that is possible at the moment not because they have any real expectation that the robots will be able to effect a rescue. The best they can hope for from the robots is a better idea of conditions deeper in the mine and it give folks something to do, which is actually an important factor. And who know there is always the chance that this is the first time a robot is used successfully.

    The real progress is being made by a drill which is limited by simple physics of drilling through rock. Once they get a hole into the deeper part of the mine they will be able to sample directly in the area where it matters. The drill hole(s) will allow them to see and sample, which will tell them if it is possible to send people into the mine. If anyone is alive it is likely to be the drill holes that will determine that.

    None of what they are doing at Pike river is easy, least of all dealing with the fear and emotions involved. Second guessing and criticizing from our seats here does not help anyone, not even us since it isn’t a great way of dealing with the frustration. Try having a coffee with some friends to alleviate the stress instead.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3256 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    A big problem with modern media coverage is that it never stops. Things "take forever" because we expect to know instantly when something happens.

    Ah yes... and don't you love the adorable "put down the P pipe, Gramps" looks you get from the younglings when you regale them with tales of the pre-interwebz world when gratification was anything but instant (if you got it at all)?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11856 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Matthew,
    Thanks for the quick correction.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    ETA: QFT, Roger. I remember when Campbell Live was launched, and we were promised the anti-Holmes. Substantive prime time current affairs for grown-up put together by actual journalists. Mission definitely not accomplished, guys. And what drives me aboslutely nuts is that there's a lot of talented people at Three -- not least John Campbell himself. So WTF is going on?

    Yes indeed... after Holmes and the other prime time dross masquerading as news or current affairs, Campbell was a breath of fresh air... but unfortunately since the start of 2010 it has been all down hill.

    I guess that it was around the time of rumours of him being carpeted and threatened with cancellation if he did not lift the ratings... bringing on the immediate production of an item about bare breasts on Takapuna Beach. Thank God for 7:00-7:30 re-runs of the Simpsons!

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 173 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Roger,

    I guess that it was around the time of rumours of him being carpeted and threatened with cancellation if he did not lift the ratings… bringing on the immediate production of an item about bare breasts on Takapuna Beach. Thank God for 7:00-7:30 re-runs of the Simpsons!

    On of the very real benefits of having a genuine public broadcaster in Australia, ABC, is that the TV news and even the magazine style shows are substantive. 7.30 Report on ABC is hosted by one of the leading and respected journalist, Kerry O'Brien, and is formatted for longer interviews etc.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2193 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to st ephen,

    Of course if my own son was down there I’d want to don the breathing gear and go in, without waiting for permission from some arse-covering bureaucrat. I wouldn’t expect or want anyone else to be responsible for my actions.

    Understandable sentiment especially for the families but, to carry on with your hypothetical, if something goes wrong and you become a victim, too, then some other poor bugger has to rescue you as well. So you may well absolve me from the responsibility of your decision but as a rescuer, I would have to deal with the consequences. And I could have been rescuing your son instead of dealing with you. Again, this is why we need incident management leadership that may seem less passionate about the rescue than the families, simply because a purely emotive response can lead to unnecessary deaths.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Simon C,

    On Nat Radio Checkpoint last night Marie Wilson spoke to John Urosek at the US Mine Safety and Health administration about their robot.

    He stated that it has previously been used with a 3000ft fibre-optic control cable (just under 1 km), which would only reach halfway down the entrance tunnel at Pike River.

    They were in the process of testing a longer cable so that it could be deployed further into the mine.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Paul Williams,

    7.30 Report on ABC is hosted by one of the leading and respected journalist, Kerry O’Brien, and is formatted for longer interviews etc.

    Asked about the hardest interview he has ever had to do, O'Brien said: "The interview I did with Jonathan Shier when he was my managing director at the ABC, and whom history now makes abundantly clear, made a complete hash of the job. It was about two-thirds of the way through his tenure that I persuaded him to come on for an interview. I suppose my opening question to him was a provocative question. I was staring into the eyes of my own boss. At the same time, the audience had to see that although I was asking tough and provocative questions, that I wasn’t pursuing an agenda. My opening question invited him to give us evidence he wasn’t a failure. Those weren’t the precise words that I used, but it was a tough question. I knew that it wouldn’t endear me to him. But I don’t remember feeling any qualm about it. He subsequently revealed, which I didn’t know at the time, that he had been seeking to have me removed from the program."

    Is it just because we lacked the critical mass that we were unable to retain more than a token vestige of a genuine public TV broadcaster?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3357 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Is it just because we lacked the critical mass that we were unable to retain more than a token vestige of a genuine public TV broadcaster?

    I don't think so. I think it's more that TPTB have decided that we're in a desperate race to the bottom for tax rates and that paying for real investigative journalism out of the public purse is a highly-sacrificial undertaking if the cost can, instead, be used to buy votes by way of a tax cut.
    If TVNZ didn't have to return a dividend, there would be money available from the commercial operations to fund investigative journalism on a public broadcaster model. Maybe using TVNZ7 as the vehicle. There's plenty of money there, but they're compelled to make the money and return it to the government instead of hanging onto it and spending it on producing quality material.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Heather W.,

    9.34am: The bore hole being drilled at Pike River has broken through into the mine.

    In its report, Newstalk ZB said a rush of hot gas came through when the final layer of rock was broken.

    If the gas was still hot at the end of a 150m journey through rock, that bodes very ill for the conditions inside the mine itself :|

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    If the gas was still hot at the end of a 150m journey through rock, that bodes very ill for the conditions inside the mine itself :|

    They're now saying it's possible they may never even be able to send a rescue team in. It's certainly looking pretty bad - not that it was ever good. Methane + carbon monoxide + coal dust was always very, very bad news for anyone down there.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

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