Tasmanian journalist Wes Young writes:


So how does it
feel to be stranded 1km down a mineshaft? Hot, damp and very dangerous,
says John Langerak, a retired European coal miner now living in
Launceston.


Speaking outside the Beaconsfield mine yesterday, he said it took a
special type of person to be an underground miner. ‘’I only did it for
three years and that was enough for me, so it must be 50 times worse
being stuck down there for nearly a week in humid darkness, not knowing
what was going on above you.”

“People
think that the deeper you dig the colder it gets but they are wrong.
It’s actually warmer. Past 1000m things get wetter and generally more
uncomfortable. It’s very damp and humid with water seeping out of the
walls, ceiling and sometimes even the floor.”

Mr Langerak
stressed that just because it was wet didn’t mean it was muddy or cold.
“The water comes out of solid rock and the air temperature is always
around 30 degrees. There are often mineral deposits that look like
coloured icicles which seem to just grow out of the tunnel walls
because of the seepage.”

‘’People have this mental picture of a
mine as a vertical shaft with a series of horizontal tunnels running
off them. Beaconsfield isn’t like that as the lower levels zig-zag
downwards with tunnels running off all over the place. It’s like a
rabbit warren, from what I have been told.”

‘’After the
cave-in it would probably be eerily quiet, with just the sound of water
dripping down the walls and your own heavy breathing. I don’t know if
they have their battery packs with them to provide light, because
otherwise it would be totally dark as well.

“It’s a good thing there are two of them because they should be able to
keep each others spirits up with talk of family and what they want to
do when they get out.”