Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Where nature may win

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  • Matt Swinson,

    Thanks for posting that Woody Guthrie number, recordari. It's a song my father used to play on the car stereo.

    Never quite got it until now.

    london • Since Mar 2007 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to ChrisW,

    Thanks. I like the sentiment in the photo. Nature may have won, but the lights still shine for the departed, and those left grieving in the dark. Or something more poetic and worthy.

    And Jacqui, that’s pretty much where I got to, and thought seriously about not posting the song lyrics, but it sure gave some perspective to it all. It was written in 1947. [Edit] Checked reference from YouTube.

    Ditto: Matt.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    Being an automaton is the easiest way of dealing with an event of this magnitude. Being human is important, and in Whittall's position it helps with your credibility, but in Knowles' position it's best to lock away whatever emotional reaction you might have and focus on the mechanics of the job at hand. That's what the IC is for, to be the dispassionate leader. As a very experienced cop Knowles will have well-developed coping mechanisms for handling the horrors of the job, and that will have made him appear very cool and distant. It's what one wants from a leader of an emergency response, logically, but without the emotional connection it does make people question if the decisions are pure CYA.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    I'm also disingenuous of those who take cheap shots about "green tape" to blame for the miners' deaths. Just as bad as the tabloid vultures on the scene.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    So I think the poor behaviour of the media in Greymouth is better sourced than mere rumour.

    It does seem to have been mostly the foreign media -- who had no bridges to burn. Denis Welch ventured on the Media7 we recorded tonight that he'd be interested to see how differently a New Zealand reporter might behave in a disaster story someplace else.

    But yeah, it's more than just rumour. There was some untoward behaviour.

    Anyway, it wasn't something I've experienced before. Fifteen minutes after I arrived at TVNZ, my producer got a text to say that the deaths of all 29 had been confirmed. We were very aware of the perils of being overtaken by events this week.

    I read the non-time-specific script I'd written in the run-through, and we agreed it would have to be re-written. I went out to the foyer, where people were extremely subdued. Stood around quietly for a bit, then went back to the autocue and re-wrote the top of the show.

    There was an extra curveball when it became clear that our two panelists -- psychologist Ian De Terte and Denis Welch -- weren't going to arrive in time from the airport, so I had to do the end of the show, with Sarah Henry talking about the royal wedding news, first, and then Ian and Denis.

    Anyway, I think it came out pretty well. It's on at 9.05pm tonight on TVNZ 7.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    I never quite got that one. Did DOC somehow magic up the risk of methane in coal mines? Or do they mean that an open cast mine can't have the risk of methane build-up?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I’m also disingenuous of those who take cheap shots about “green tape” to blame for the miners’ deaths. Just as bad as the tabloid vultures on the scene.

    Briefly tuned in to hear Laws doing a huuuuuge passive-aggressive number on that one: It's not him, you see: but lots of other people are saying to him it's the greenies' fault ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Absolutely.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    I'm also disingenuous of those who take cheap shots about "green tape" to blame for the miners' deaths. Just as bad as the tabloid vultures on the scene.

    As I've said, there's going to be a coronial inquiry, a Commission of Inquiry (terms of reference to be released on Monday, according to the PM), another by the Department of Labour and fuck knows what else I've missed. Think there's going to be a lot of reality-based evidence on the table to discuss in an informed and rational manner, after a decent pause, so could we just serve a round of fuckupachinos and be done with the point scoring?

    Having said that, I still think Key and Goff and the rest of Parliament showed serious class rather than their arses over the last week. I bitch politicians a lot, so that's worth repeating.

    Briefly tuned in to hear Laws doing a huuuuuge passive-aggressive number on that one: It's not him, you see: but lots of other people are saying to him it's the greenies' fault ...

    I've stood in cowpats with a lower bullshit content than that creature.

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

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Don't forget the internal debrief by Pike River management (one hopes), and the formal debrief of the organisations that contributed into the Incident Management Team such as Police, Fire Service, various Mines Rescue bodies (I'm sure the Aussie contingents will put in managers' reports, if not in-person comments), etc.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I don't think the second explosion will silence doubters. The question will still arise that perhaps if people had been sent in there earlier then the second explosion wouldn't have sealed anyone's fate.

    Also, it seems likely that the real facts on the fate of the people down there might be scanty. Autopsies on any recovered bodies will probably show whether they died by crushing, burning, methane or carbon monoxide inhalation, asphyxiation or thirst, but it might be quite hard to put a fairly precise time on it. Maybe they all died within minutes of the first explosion. Maybe some were killed by the second one. Or any time in between.

    This kind of uncertainty is very hard to deal with. People always want to know if their loved ones suffered, and blame will always be sought, both for the original incident and also the recovery.

    Despite the fact that I think they did the right thing in not sending people down, that kind of choice is not indisputable. Perhaps a hero dash could have saved lives - these things do happen.

    In fact, they happened in my family. My brother saved a trapped child from a capsized and sinking yacht in heavy seas once, despite protestations from his friends and colleagues who were in the IRB, and even the boy's own father had given up on the rescue. He had to freedive down and up under the yacht (they had no scuba gear), enter the cabin full of tangles of loose cables and other gear thrashing around, find the boy, then untangle him from various ropes he had been caught by, all the while keeping him calm, then dive himself and the boy back out. He was down there for several minutes, and the boat sank soon after.

    It was a great outcome, but he could very easily have died himself, adding to the tragedy. The other lifesavers in the boat were totally unwilling to take the risk.

    In Pike River, the dangers were much greater. I doubt even someone as foolishly brave as my brother would have risked walking blithely into something that was quite likely already a tomb, and also a hair-fused bomb, possibly still burning, with every chance of collapse, kilometers from all help. Considering that they could also be putting other lives at risk by doing so, as so many people have said, the gruelingly slow way that it was conducted was a hard but fair call.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    (imported car without a band-expanded stereo. You know how it is)

    I do know how it is, and that is why in my wife's car, I listen to National Radio on AM.
    It may not sound as nice, but the content is worth making the effort to hear over the crackle (mostly). :)

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Perhaps a hero dash could have saved lives

    Perhaps. Had the explosion been dozens of metres into the mine (I'll ignore what might have happened at the tunnel mouth in that event), or even a few hundred, I suspect the response would've been different. But 2.5km is a long way when you have to carry in the equipment necessary to not only survive but also effect a rescue. For the average person, in normal clothes and good conditions, it's a 40-minute walk. Wearing BA, carrying spare cylinders and gas detectors and digging equipment it's well over an hour. Probably more like two. Which makes a "hero dash" more of a "hero marathon".

    [ETA: Big kudos to your brother. It's moments of complete insanity from which true heroism is born.]

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    so could we just serve a round of fuckupachinos and be done with the point scoring?

    Speaking of which, the American reality-based community has formed the Coffee Party movement in response to the Tea Party. Any ideas about forming a NZ branch?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Also, it seems likely that the real facts on the fate of the people down there might be scanty.

    If they died of asphyxiation after the first explosion, the story may be told by the position in which they are found - and grim as it may sound, I imagine it would be of some comfort to the families.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    2.5km is a long way

    I deliberately avoided most of the coverage, but did anyone show the real length of tunnel - say putting someone in line of sight 2.5km from the camera, and then further to mark the far end of the mine workings? Or even a scale diagram that didn't just leave off the access tunnel. Easier for some of us to comprehend if it's a picture.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    say putting someone in line of sight 2.5km from the camera

    Given that a person who's 2.5km away is effectively invisible to the naked eye, I think a better example might be needed :)

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    If they died of asphyxiation after the first explosion, the story may be told by the position in which they are found

    Depending upon the extent to which decomposition has set in, there may be some clues from tissue/blood analysis.

    Lucy, you seem to be the resident test-tube baby - any thoughts?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    Depending how long it takes to recover the bodies, even that analysis may not be possible. If it's months from now, a difference of a few days may not be distinguishable. There's also the environmental consideration of temperature, etc, which isn't easily calculable, and I would imagine does matter rather a lot. Certainly the CSI guys make a big deal of working out the ambient environment when pontificating on time of death, even with Grissom's bugs

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Thanks RB, and Recordari for the stimulus on the photo.

    On the matter of the high tide wave circulating and wrapping around NZ
    - this morning's wave from the West Coast has now passed all the way up the east and rounded Cape Reinga, it will pass Auckland at the Manukau Heads in half an hour if you wish to add your thoughts, it will have returned to Greymouth about 2 pm.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Certainly the CSI guys make a big deal of working out the ambient environment when pontificating on time of death, even with Grissom's bugs

    My thinking there too. Also a highly toxic environment might lack the usual decomposition factors - how many bugs can survive high concentrations of methane, or subzero temperatures? It's probably not something CSI people deal with a lot, the margins of error could be very high.

    Lucy, you seem to be the resident test-tube baby - any thoughts?

    I'd also like to ask the question about the complications involved in testing methane levels on a continual basis. How is it done? Can it even be done? Are there tricks or tools that can be used to detect it even with just a moderate level of certainty? Doesn't it have a distinctive smell?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Petra, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    nm

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I can see U2 doing Red Hill Mining Town tomorrow night. That would be moving.

    They do a cover of Peggy Seeger's Springhill Mining Disaster, but I am pretty sure they will have a little more sensitivity that that, and not sing that here, at this time.

    The term Springhill mining disaster can refer to any of three separate Canadian mining disasters which occurred in 1891, 1956, and 1958.


    Springhill Mining Disaster

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    testing methane levels on a continual basis. How is it done? Can it even be done? Are there tricks or tools that can be used to detect it even with just a moderate level of certainty?

    It can definitely be done, because there are portable hydrocarbon detectors. The Fire Service use them. One of the factors in the IcePack incident was that the gas detector normally on the pump/rescue tender that attended was in for maintenance so there was no equipment on hand to check for gas.

    Doesn’t [methane] have a distinctive smell?

    Nope. Odourless. An odorant is added to commercial gas supply for safety.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Given that a person who's 2.5km away is effectively invisible to the naked eye, I think a better example might be needed

    I remember a doco series starring Dr David Bellamy a few decades ago*. They used a rising helicopter shot of a line of bonfires on a Californian beach to show the timeline of human development. Furthest was about 5km away. Last was about 10m. Dont' remember much else from the show but that one stuck.

    Being NZ telly news I'm expecting a big torch or a mirror during the day could be substituted to say "here I am".

    *probably "Botanic Man" from 1978. You can see from this clip featuring our fair land that Jeremy Wells and co weren't just drawing on Kenneth Cumberland for their Unauthorised History of NZ.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

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