On Wednesday at around 10 p.m., 17 miners descended nearly half a mile to the floor of the Cayuga Salt Mine in central New York — at 2,300 feet, it’s the deepest in the Western Hemisphere — to start their shift. The miners’ elevator descended about 900 feet before it malfunctioned, trapping all 17 of them underground, the AP reports. Roughly ten hours later, a few minutes after 8:30 Thursday morning, the men were hauled to the surface.
Mark Klein, a spokesman for the mine’s owner, said the miners were never in danger — they were equipped with blankets, heat packs, and other supplies. Still, mine operations will be shut down for the rest of the week while federal safety inspectors and company officials try to figure out what went wrong. “We want to take a step back and check things out,” Klein said, which sounds like a great idea, especially to the people who were trapped in a chilly steel box underground overnight.
Getting them all out took some time; the first four were rescued around 7 a.m., another four followed at about 7:30, another seven at 8:30, and the last two were rescued a few minutes after that, Klein said. Shawn Wilczynski, the mine’s manager, said the trapped miners remained in good spirits throughout the ordeal, “joking, sharing stories, having a good time with each other.” You have to think the next trip down on that elevator is going to be a lot quieter.