Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Where nature may win

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  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    I'm having a good influence on you after all. :) But seriously, I've gotten more useful and pertinent information from this thread than the Rocky Herald -- which happens a lot.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Why would it be the cops' job to waterproof the robot? See my big post above about just what role the cops will be playing in all of this.
    Hint: They won't be the ones who're on the ground doing the grunt work.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Depending on how you read a Herald headline from last Saturday, they were going to try a radical approach with something called a scoring machine. Sadly it wasn't an ingenious plan to attempt a rescue with some piece of mining equipment, or a hitherto unheard of robot.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Why would it be the cops’ job to waterproof the robot?

    Matthew, you're just not helping with the cop-bashing.

    Srsly, the Police are certainly due their fair amount of criticism in some cases, but I can't see what they could do better in this situation.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Right, so the cops are in charge, except when they are not, when no one is - or at least, no one with any common sense?

    There seems to me there are two alternative narratives here. Either it was decided they were all dead on Friday, but that can't publicly be said yet, and the recovery effort is proceeding at a leisurely and risk averse approach commensurate with this, or the police (who might be good at taking over and administering an incident but are not experts in mine rescue) are presiding over amateur hour at the (literal) coal face.

    Time will tell.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2210 posts Report Reply

  • David Winter,

    If anyone wants to hear from people who know what they're talking about on the use of robots in mine rescues, the SMC has some choice quotes

    SMC: Have robots been used effectively in the past in the wake of mining cave-ins or explosions to aid in rescuing miners?

    Sean Dessureault: Used in the past, yes. Used effectively, no.

    Dunedin • Since Aug 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Tom, again, read my explanation of Lead Agency. Especially the bit about the Operations Manager. You're not stupid, so try engaging your brain before you carry out your next bit of cop-bashing.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Matthew, This waterproofing fiasco sums up the worrying failure of the rescue organisation to anticipate anything in relation to this rescue so far. If anyone isn’t putting his brain into gear it is you, I thought your touching child-like faith in the authorities to get it right went out the window at the Somme, but clearly you missed that particular historical event.

    The Police have been high-profile in the command and control of this operation. In public, they are making all the executive decisions and are clearly the lead decision making agency. Yet there is a growing number of rescue management failures in relation to this incident. If the cops are not in charge of these technical aspects, then it is not clear to me who is. In which case, who is the person running the rescue? I am beginning to suspect that no one (or at least no one competent) is in charge of the rescue.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2210 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I heard part of a press conference where someone (my back was to the telly so I didn't see his name) was imploring people to not assume they can send in a rescuer in firefighting gear.

    The different is, if a firefighter goes into a building on fire, while there may be dangerous gasses and heat, if things get really bad, he can quickly get out through a window or door. But if you're 3km inside the earth, it's a lot harder to make a quick escape.

    The Herald's Your Views page is amusing in that most of the criticism of the police seems to be that they're not acting like rescuers act in movies or in TV dramas.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Raymond, we need to keep our cynicism alert radar on even during times of tragedy and natural disasters. For politicians, especially our current leaders, everything is a PR opportunity, however genuine their human response is. There is also a hearts and minds battle for the future of mining going on too.This is exactly the time to mention these things.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3194 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    Structural fire fighting kit is not designed for mine rescue. It's heavy (including BA, a fire fighter goes into a house fire wearing over 20kg), and it's hot. Modern structural fire fighting clothing is multi-layered, and protects by absorbing heat. It needs to be given time to release heat before it can be safely used again, which can take 20 minutes or more, and if it doesn't cool completely it can't be worn for as long before the wearer starts to risk being burned.
    Conversely, it traps body heat. Walking 2.5km is a recipe for heat exhaustion. The design is so tailored to a specific "threat" that there are National Commander's Instructions (which carry the force of law) that structural kit is not to be worn for fighting scrub fires. It's not general-purpose rescue clothing, and is distinctly unsuitable for a very long walk. Plus, in a wet environment like Pike River Mine, by the time the clothing was needed it would be saturated and thus liable to turn into a steam room as the absorbed water began to boil off and cook the wearer. It's water-resistant, but very definitely not water-proof.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The Herald's Your Views page is amusing in that most of the criticism of the police seems to be that they're not acting like rescuers act in movies or in TV dramas.

    Ah, you mean the movies and television shows that enjoy the services of professional stunt, pyro and FX co-ordinators to make sure the actors (who will be surrounded by safety crew just out of shot) don't get killed? Wouldn't it be nice to live your life with an entourage...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    Tom, please keep Murphy's Second Law in mind: anything that has gone wrong will get worse. The mine is unstable and a lot is uncertain and what is uncertain could kill potential rescuers. The team at work there is trying very had to make sure that things do not get catastrophically worse.

    There seems to me there are two alternative narratives here.

    Seems. Beware of seems This is pure speculation. As they've said, they don't know and they're planning for all possible scenarios. Do you know the cliched question, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" There seem to be two possible answers... well, there aren't.

    This waterproofing fiasco

    The robot was not designed as mine rescue equipment, it was available for use to reconnoiter a mine. It was used because it was better to make use of it because there was a chance that it might work than not to use it, not because it was perfect. Waterproofing does not consist of throwing someone's old raincoat over it (which would foul its workings); it would entail design changes, which might turn out to be time-consuming and likely counter-productive, resulting in functional flaws. That's typical of on-the-hoof engineering.

    I've heard on Nat Rad that a worker on the bore hole has been injured and had to be medevaced. This simply demonstrates that this is a dangerous, complicated situation in difficult circumstances with potentially lethal unknowns.

    growing number of rescue management failures

    Be prepared for more failures. There's an old "joke" amongst test pilots: The last message from the pilot of a crashing plane is heard on the radio to say, "I've tried A and that didn't work, I tried B and that didn't work, now I'm going to try-"

    The point is, they don't know what will work because they can't. They know what they have available and what could work and they'll run down their list until they succeed or run out of options... and they'll try to keep that options list as long as possible.

    touching child-like faith in the authorities

    That is just gratuitously condescending.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 982 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    That is just gratuitously condescending.

    At least he's not charging for the condescension. Small mercies.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    The Herald’s Your Views page is amusing in that most of the criticism of the police seems to be that they’re not acting like rescuers act in movies or in TV dramas.

    I seem to recall making a parody post on this very topic yesterday. Oh, that's right, I did.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    I’m having flashbacks to Grant Dexter’s insistence that the police re-enact Die Hard during an armed siege in which an officer had already been killed.

    The obvious thing to do here is contact Hollywood and assemble a team of crack actors led by Bruce Willis to go into the mine. Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack can back them up at the control centre, the concept designers who did all that awesome machinery in Avatar can design and build the rescue equipment, the landscape can be smoothed with CGI and if anybody's hurt, we can reveal that they're OK in the sequel or remind them to keep being the plucky comic relief, like Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 982 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Could someone respond rationally to this bizarre post from Brian Edwards. I just can't do it.

    Those two letters appeared in this morning’s Herald. It seems to me that they poignantly express what many of us may have felt watching the press conferences being held by the authorities handling the ‘search and rescue’ efforts at the Pike River mine – that, despite their frequent expressions of sympathy and understanding, the police in particular have failed to respond to the will of the West Coast mining community or to fully comprehend the superhuman nature, the near impossibility in terms of patience and self-control, of what they continue to expect the families and friends of those 29 trapped men to endure. I have no doubt whatsoever that Superintendent Gary Knowles, who is heading the operation, genuinely believes that in refusing to let anyone go into the mine, he is acting in the best interests of both the rescuers and the trapped miners. And he has international best practice on his side. But as I watch his cogent, rational and contained answers to questions about why, after five days, no-one has been allowed to venture down those 2 kilometres, I find myself sharing some of the frustration and anger that is increasingly evident in the community. And I have no son, no father, no brother, no uncle, no friend buried, alive or dead, in that hell.

    WTF is his point - Gary Knowles isn't being careless enough with other people's lives? Here's a modest proposal -- let's start flooding Dr. Edwards' neighbourhood with dangerous levels of toxic, flammable gas and see whether he'd appreciate "patience and self-control" then.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Kraklite - it isn't the failure of the robot per se - it is the clear failure to anticipate the potential water problem. It is the failure to anticipate that this robot might fail and to try and source another such robot until after the first one got wet and conked out. It is the whole sequence of linear decision making that seems to be characterising this incident that bothers me.

    We have a situation where the police are running the operation, but then it appears they are not running anything to do with the actual rescue, even though they front foot the press conferences - where the implication is the press should unquestioningly accept the authority conferred by a police uniform.

    Whoever IS running the technical aspects appears to be doing a very poor job so far of taking charge and making timely and informed decisions and communicating these through the command structure and out to the public. And that is something that needs much further investigation, because it could point to the reason why this disaster happened in the first place.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2210 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Kracklite,

    Beat me to it Kracker. "I guess I picked the wrong day to give up smoking" Lloyd Bridges, Airplane.
    Have the people at the Herald forgotten about those poor cyclists?.
    Couldn't the Police have sent a Cab down there?.
    Couldn't they send in Gerry Brownlee with his special powers and have the whole caboodle reorganised by Rodney Hide?.
    They could do so much more eh?.
    I would remove the cynic hat but it seems to be permanently attached.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite,

    it is the clear failure to anticipate the potential water problem.

    An interesting phrase used in the news just now "using the robot was a long shot" So was it a "clear failure"? I'm afraid that I was not, as you appear to have been, present on the discussions about using the robot. It could well have been something along the lines of, "Well, water could be a problem, but we've got to use it and if it copes, that's good." In fact, the handlers would certainly have listed the advantages and disadvantages and a calculated risk was taken.

    o try and source another such robot

    That is flat-out wrong in fact. Other robots are have been prepared and arrangements are being made to deliver them from both Australia and the US. However, since teleportation has not yet been accomplished above the quantum level, this is taking time. Neither have I seen racks of robots down at the local Warehouse.

    appears to be doing...

    Rinse and repeat.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 982 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Kracklite,

    Plus William Shatner to talk them through it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Whoever IS running the technical aspects appears to be doing a very poor job so far of taking charge and making timely and informed decisions and communicating these through the command structure and out to the public. And that is something that needs much further investigation, because it could point to the reason why this disaster happened in the first place.

    I've thought the communication through the command structure and out to the public has been pretty good, though I haven't seen any of the press conferences. There's been clear indications of what they're doing, why they're not doing other things, their understanding of what happened, what they don't know, impediments, dangers, concerns, and I saw flashy graphics of the mine and where people were on TV. I know about the drilling, the switch to the diamond bit, what that will allow them to do (cameras, listing devices), they've opened bore openings and the gas released from that has given them hope. The information has been fantastic, now if they could just drag 29 live miners out of there everyone will be happy.

    I'm not sure if "this isn't a robot designed to go into a mine, it might not work" is a massive failure. I think we were all aware of that when they said "this is an army robot".

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    The obvious thing to do here is contact Hollywood and assemble a team of crack actors led by Bruce Willis to go into the mine.

    What you all don't seem to realize is that Sylvester Stallone has already found the back way out for all 29 guys, and will himself emerge from the front, cresting a self-ignited blastwave that will catapult him safely to the Pike. But the Balrog is in hot pursuit of the survivors, and there is dissension in their ranks....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to James George,

    “In hundreds of years of methane explosions in coal mines, why is it that if the coal earns billions, there is such reluctance to develop technology to prevent recurrences?”

    WTF. Anyone with a tiniest shred of knowledge of the history of mining should have heard of the Safety Lamp.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    This just went from mildly disturbing to all out inappropriate, IMnsHO.

    Real. Humans. FFS. Show some restraint.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

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