A Miraculous Rescue

Article | Updated 8 months ago

Case Study

I feel grand now. My head is all right, and talking does not make it ache. I intend to go to work in the mine again.

Varischetti one week after his rescue, 5 April 1907

On 19 March 1907, 32 year old Modesto ‘Charlie’ Varischetti went to work as usual at the Westralia mine at Bonnievale.

The area was hit by a storm, and local streams broke through into the underground workings of the mine. All but one of the 160 underground workers reached safety.

Varischetti, on the No. 10 level, quickly knew he was trapped. Although below about 50 feet of water, he was in an air pocket and able to breathe. His workmates, assuming him dead, were amazed to hear his taps from below the waterline.

A special train from Fremantle brought the required air hose and two divers, Jack Curtis and Tom Hearne, along with their assistants and diving gear, to Kalgoorlie. Two Kalgoorlie miners, Frank Hughes and Fox, also offered their diving and mining expertise.

They reached the trapped man on the sixth day, giving him a powerful electric lamp, food, candles and other necessities.

Variscetti was visited each day by the divers while enough water was pumped to allow access on foot. Relief came on day nine when the divers tied a rope around Varischetti’s waist and started the difficult walk back through the deep water and sludge. The ‘entombed miner’ surfaced on March 28.

He recovered and returned to work underground.

Divers Frank Hughes and Tom Hearne with their assistants and Josiah Crabb, Inspe

Divers Frank Hughes and Tom Hearne with their assistants and Josiah Crabb, Inspector of Mines, in centre
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 4941B/4

Members of rescue team in mine shaft feeding through air hose and life line.

Members of rescue team in mine shaft feeding through air hose and life line for divers’ descent, 1907
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 4941B/5