Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster

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9780151005598: Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster

The deepest coal mine in North America was notoriously unpredictable. One late October evening in 1958, it "bumped" - its rock floors heaving up and smashing into rock ceilings. A few miners staggered out, most of the 174 on shift did not.

Nineteen men were trapped, plunged into darkness, hunger, thirst, and hallucination. As days and nights passed, the survivors began to hope for death by gas rather than from thirst. Above ground, journalists and families stood in despairing vigil, as rescuers brought out scores of the dead. The hope of finding life undergound faded and families made funeral preparations.

Then, a miracle: Rescuers stumbled across a broken pipe leading to a cave of survivors, then a second group was discovered.

A media circus followed. Ed Sullivan, then the state of Georgia, invited survivors to visit. Publicity, politics, and segregation sorted the men differently than they had ordered themselves. Underground, the one black survivor nursed a dying man; in Atlanta, Governor Marvin Griffin said: "I will not shake hands with a Negro."

If every great writer has one tale of peril, heroism, and survival, Last Man Out is Melissa Fay Greene's. Using long-lost stories and interviews with survivors, Greene has reconstructed the drama of their struggle to stay alive

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Review:

On October 23, 1958, gases from deep within the earth shot skyward, causing entire floors of rock to rise instantly in a coal mine in Springhill, Nova Scotia, trapping 174 men underground. Seventy-five miners never made it out alive. Miraculously, two small groups of miners survived the initial "bump" but were sealed in small caverns deep within the coal. Surrounded by foul air and total darkness, and with precious little food and water, the men vacillated between optimism and hopelessness as they tried to maintain sanity amidst horrific conditions. Above them, fellow miners and rescue workers dug desperately to get them out, clinging to the unwritten Miner's Code that no man shall be left behind. After a week of digging and with hope all but exhausted, they found one group of a dozen miners; a day later seven more men were discovered. Melissa Fay Greene describes this harrowing ordeal in sharp detail, effectively capturing the drama of the event for both the miners trapped below and their distraught families waiting above.

Placing the event into a larger context, Greene describes how it became the first nationally televised disaster, as journalists from all over Canada and the U.S. converged on the small town and camped at the entrance of the mine. After their rescue, the men were the center of media attention, and some of them became instant celebrities (one was chosen as Canada's "Citizen of the Year"; another became a spokesman for 7-Up soda). She also details the bizarre episode in which an assistant to the governor of Georgia tried to spin the disaster into a marketing gimmick to promote tourism. To the segregationist governor's chagrin, one of the rescued miners turned out to be black, presenting him with a potential public relations nightmare. Though her use of fictionalized dialogue between the miners is sometimes distracting, Greene's extensive research brings this remarkable story to life, making Last Man Out an absorbing re-creation of a forgotten episode. --Shawn Carkonen

From the Back Cover:

Trapped a mile below the earth’s surface, with scant hope of rescue, nineteen miners spent over a week without light, drink, food. This is the extraordinary story of their suffering, their courage, and their miraculous rescue.

Advance Praise for Last Man Out
"In Last Man Out, Melissa Fay Greene so captures the experience of being trapped in the absolute night of a failed coal-mine that you can almost see the pale beams of dying headlamps and taste the last sips of coal-laced drinking water. Having shared the experience, a sympathetic reader cannot help but marvel at the absurdity of the disaster's aftermath. This is a fine, harrowing, brutally detailed work that will make you savor daylight in a way you never have—unless of course you're already a coal miner."
--Erik Larsen, author of Isaac's Storm

Praise for Praying for Sheetrock
"A monumental social history with implications that go far beyond the borders of a tiny coastal Georgia county. Through a combination of oral history and interpretive narrative, Greene has created a work of great drama, a chorus of voices that is both disturbing and inspiring."
--The Boston Globe

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Book Description Harcourt, Orlando, Florida, U. S. A., 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Illustrated by Photographs (illustrator). First Edition. The deepest coal mine in North Nova Scotia was notoriously unpredictable. One late October evening in 1958 it "bumped" - its rock floors heaving up and smashing into rock ceilings. A few miners staggered out, but most of the 174 on the shift did not. Nineteen miners were trapped. The hope of finding life underground faded and families made funeral preparations. Then, a miracle: Rescuers stumbled across a broken pipe leading to a cave containing survivors, then a second group was discovered. A media circus followed. Using long-lost stories and interviews with survivors, the author has reconstructed the drama of their struggle to stay alive. Eight pages of photographs, Includes sources, endnotes, and an index. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. ; 342 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 002460

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