Poker Keeps the Chilean Miners Sane

by Lou on August 31, 2010

“In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia,

Down in the dark of the Cumberland Mine,

The day still comes and the sun still shines,

But it’s dark as a grave in the Cumberland Mine,

Dark and quiet as a grave in the Cumberland Mine”

—Ewan MacColl, Springhill Mine Disaster

In his classic coal mining ballad, Springhill Mine Disaster, Ewan MacColl writes of a mine collapse in Nova Scotia in 1958.  In that cave-in, twelve miners were rescued after eight days, and they never reopened that mine.

When the San Jose gold and copper mine’s collapse in Chile left 33 miners trapped in the dark, the miners survived by rationing a few days’ supply of food for two weeks, and passed the time playing poker. Estimates reckon that the Chilean miners will be underground for four months before they can expect to be pulled 2,000 feet up a narrow hole and rescued.  Although they now have food, water, and light, it’s poker that figures to keep them sane.

Enjoyable activities are one way to triumph over trauma, according to Elements Behavioral Health, a California treatment center. According to the center’s website, “Whatever it is that you know your loved one generally finds enjoyment doing, make it a point to encourage this kind of activity.”

For the miners, poker fills that need. So when the miners say, “Keep those cards and letters coming,” I’m guessing they mean fresh decks of cards as well as those written to lift their spirits.

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