When the miners were discovered alive on August 22, initial estimates of the rescue operation were a minimum of six months. Nobody had been trapped at such a depth before.
But Brandon Fisher, who runs a specialist drilling firm called Center Rock Inc., in Berlin, Pennsylvania, was convinced he could do the job quicker. Fisher had been involved in the rescue at Quecreek, Pennsylvania, in July 2002, in which nine miners had been saved after having been trapped for over 78 hours. But despite his experience, Fisher couldn't get anyone to listen to him.
The NOVA film crew interviews driller Greg Hall during the height of the crisis.
Enter stage left the hulking figure of Greg Hall, who runs his own small firm, Drillers Supply International, in Cypress, Texas. Hall has a long-standing connection with Chile ("it's my second home"), speaks impeccable Spanish, and runs his South American operations out of Antofagasta, about 300 miles north of the San José mine.
Hall's general manager there, Mijali Proestakis, and Proestakis's nephew Igor, had been involved in the early stages of the rescue operation, and Hall quickly persuaded the Chilean government to listen to Fisher's pitch.
It was a bold plan: to sacrifice one of the narrow supply lines being used to keep the miners alive, supplying them with food, water, air, and, later, communications and electricity.