Moose River Mine

[ON Sunday, April 12, 1936, Dr. D. E. Robertson of Toronto and two fellow Canadians were buried alive one hundred and forty feet underground in an abandoned Canadian mine. The Atlantic is privileged to print the story of their rescue written by Dr. W. E. Gallie, Dr. Robertson’s best friend, who was, of course, on the spot — aboveground! — THE EDITORS]


AT half-past seven o’clock on Easter Monday morning I was electrified by the frightened voice of Mrs. D. E. Robertson on the telephone telling me she had just had a long-distance message from Halifax that her husband had gone down into a mine and the mine had fallen in on top of him. Two other men were with him: Mr. Magill, who owned the mine, and Mr. Scadding, the timekeeper. Mrs. Robertson and Mrs. Magill were planning to catch the train for Halifax which was scheduled to leave Toronto in an hour and a half, and my wife decided to go with them. Mr. Charles Ivey, Mrs. Robertson’s brother, started at once from London, Ontario, by motor, in what proved to be a hair-raising but successful attempt to catch the Maritime Express at Montreal, and there joined the ladies.

Then followed days of uncertainty and anxiety, and the gradual working up of one of the most thrilling and dramatic stories this country has ever known. Here in Toronto we had very little accurate information until Mr. Ivey arrived at Moose River, but there was one piece of news of tremendous importance to us: that, twelve hours after the collapse of the mine, wood smoke was detected rising from the fissured earth, and was interpreted by many of the miners as a smoke signal from living men below. The conviction that this wood smoke could have come from nothing but a signal fire, that it could not possibly have resulted from an explosion or spontaneous combustion, spurred our hopes for the rescue, in the face of what seemed to be an almost hopeless situation.

At eleven o’clock on Easter Sunday night, Dr. Robertson, Magill, and Scadding had gone down into the mine to take a last look at the workings before deciding whether to sell out or not. The mine was a very old one and had not been worked for thirty years, but as several small fortunes had been made out of it, and remarkable specimens of high-grade ore could easily be obtained, Magill had bought it in the hope that the recent great advance in the price of gold might make it profitable once more. My friend Dr. Robertson had been persuaded to lend money for the venture.

The entrance to the mine was by way of an inclined shaft, known in Nova Scotia as a ‘slope,’ down which went a railway track on which ran the ‘skip,’ a sort of tramcar which was lowered and raised by a cable. This slope communicated with drifts or levels at eighty feet, one hundred and forty feet, and three hundred feet; through it the miners had been taken to and from their work, and the ore which was removed from the stopes brought to the surface. This was the only entrance to the mine, as all the other shafts, of which there were several, had collapsed or become filled with the débris of many years.

On this eventful Sunday night the three men stepped into the skip at the entrance of the Magill shaft and were lowered at once to the three-hundredfoot level. Here they remained for a few minutes, then signaled to Higgins, the hoist man, to be raised to the onehundred-and-forty-foot level. Higgins says they stayed at this level for fifteen minutes or so and then signaled to be raised to the surface. Just at this moment he heard the hiss of escaping steam, and, instead of raising the skip, he rushed to the pump and shut off the steam. In the confusion he realized that the usual three bells calling for the raising of the skip had been extended to five or six, suggestive of an attempt to give the nine-bell signal of ‘danger.’ Before he could do anything, there was a roar as of an earthquake, and when he looked out into the night he saw, in place of the usual gentle hill in front of the shaft house, a horrid, yawning abyss.

Dr. Robertson and Scadding say that when they reached the three-hundred-foot level they were struck by the unusual amount of noise in the mine. There were creakings and groanings and the noise of falling rocks, and after listening for a few moments Scadding, who was the only one of the three who knew anything about mines, persuaded the others that things were not right and that they should get out at once. They accordingly were raised in the skip, but stopped at the one-hundredand-forty-foot level to see if they could find out what was causing all the noise. Dr. Robertson and Scadding waited at the station, but Magill went into the crosscut with a Coleman lamp and spent a few minutes exploring the tunnels and stopes. By this time the noises were really alarming, and as soon as Magill returned Scadding gave the signal to lift the skip. Almost as if in response to the pulling of the signal wire a tremendous wind swept down the shaft, and with a roar of falling rocks and timbers the shaft collapsed above them.

The story of the ghastly experiences of the next ten days, with its multiple hairbreadth escapes, its succession of hope and despair, its black tragedy, its thrills of anticipation and disappointment, its comedy and its appalling misery, has been told in the dignified and restrained report made by Dr. Robertson and Scadding to the Canadian Red Cross, and it is there for all to read. My tale is one that I know more about — the tale of a rescue that for its sustained effort, its driving enthusiasm, and its cold-blooded courage is surely an epic of mining.


On Wednesday, two and a half days after the collapse of the mine, a diamond drill was sent in by the government. Who first thought of the diamond drill will never be known; I have heard of at least ten people who claim this distinction. It matters little — there were probably hundreds of others who thought of it as well. The important thing, however, was to point the drill in such a way that it would ultimately reach the men and be of use to them if they were still alive. It seemed clear that if they were alive they must be in the drift at the one-hundred-and-forty-foot level. Unfortunately there was no map of the mine, and nobody, not even the manager, could say exactly where the station of this level was in relation to the surface. It was here that Messervey, a young engineer in the employ of the government, covered himself with glory, for there is no doubt that without that drill hole nothing but tragedy could have resulted.

This man, quite unfamiliar with the mine and the district, swiftly collected all the information he could, made his observations and measurements on the surface, and finally chose a spot and an angle and set the drill to work. Slowly the diamonds in the end of the one and one-quarter inch steel cylinder scratched and ground their way through the rock. Hour after hour Billy Bell and his crew from New Glasgow served that drill. To those who stood around, thinking of the men down below, the drill seemed to move with dreadful slowness. And then, what was the good of it anyway? Was there any chance that it could ever reach the right spot? As the hours went by, however, the drill went four feet, then eight feet, then twelve, and by and by sixty feet, sixty-four feet; then came one hundred feet, one hundred and one, — at which level Messervey had estimated he should strike the shaft, — one hundred and two feet, one hundred and three, and bang — the drill dropped seven feet into space. This was Saturday, April 18, at eleven o’clock in the morning — six days after the fall. The diamond drillers had worked fifty-nine hours without a rest. They had drilled a hole one and one-quarter inches in diameter which now reached one hundred and three feet down into the mine.

By this time all the hopes of the rescuers were concentrated on the drill. Efforts to enter the mine by the old Reynolds shaft had been abandoned because of the evident danger, and the work on the Meagher shaft was going on only slowly. The occasional blasts of dynamite in the new vertical shaft, known as the ‘death shaft,’ served only to remind one of funerals.

When the drill dropped into that pocket all was excitement and high expectation. Everybody stood intent, listening. Had the drill struck the right spot? Were they alive? Would they — or could they — signal? Five minutes, ten minutes, and then dull disappointment. No answer to the hammering on the pipe. Then somebody connected the air compressor with the drill hole and blew blasts of air down at intervals. No answer. Then an electric light was lowered and left hanging in the space below and after a while drawn up again. Then a railway flare was set off in the mine, but still no response. Slowly the crowds melted away, and gradually the conviction settled itself on the groups who stood about the drill that the men below were dead.

At half-past four in the afternoon Mr. Ivey told Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Magill, and my wife that the drill had reached into the shaft and that there had been no answering call. He told them he had at last given up hope, and he thought they should go into Halifax and wait there for what might be found with the slow deepening of the new shaft. At six o’clock he called his brother and me in Toronto and said that all hope had been abandoned and that he was taking the ladies into Halifax in the morning. This was the zero hour.

Then, of a sudden, all was changed. At twelve-thirty, midnight, the Robertson boys were aroused by the telephone, and from the Moose River end came their mother’s joyful voice, saying that signals were coming up the drill hole, that she had been talking to their father, and that all three men were alive.

It seems that all hope had not quite been abandoned. It had been thought by some that the men might have wandered away from the shaft and so failed to hear or see the signals sent down the drill hole. To test this theory, a whistle was brought from the Cariboo Mines, some miles away, and sent down with the drill into the mine. There it was set a-shrieking, and almost immediately Bell heard a faint tapping on the end of the diamond drill and a distant halloa, in a moment or two they were talking to Scadding, and a little later Dr. Robertson talked to Mr. Ivey and then to his wife.

The explanation of the fourteen-hour interval between the time the drill entered the mine and the time of the first signal is surprising. The first intimation that the men in the mine had that there was any communication between their cell and the surface was when a blaze of light shot up out of the shaft below them and they thought they were about to be blown up with a dynamite explosion. They at once rushed to the shaft and knocked out the flare. They never suspected that this was a signal. Then hours of silence and darkness went by, when suddenly they were electrified again by the screaming of a whistle which they placed in the same spot as the flare. The regular blowing of the whistle demonstrated beyond doubt that this was a signal. They groped their way to the slope and found the whistle at the end of the diamond drill about ten or twelve feet below them in the shaft. To get to it Scadding went down a ladder, and then tapped on the pipe and shouted ‘Halloa.’ That shout was heard around the world.


With the discovery that the men were alive below, the atmosphere changed at Moose River. Work ceased at the ‘death shaft’ and a crowd of volunteers offered themselves at the old Reynolds shaft, where work had been abandoned several days before because of the danger of falling rock. Soon the shifts were organized, and the one hundred and seventy-five miners who came from Cariboo, Stellarton, Goldenville, New Glasgow, and Timmins were hard at work burrowing a tunnel through crushed and fallen rock toward the eighty-foot level of the Magill slope, where it was hoped that a clear shaft might be found.

At the diamond-drill hole all sorts of ingenious schemes were being worked out to get food and supplies to the men below. The difficulties, of course, were great, as nothing could be sent down but what could be introduced into the diamond drill. A diamond drill is a steel cylinder, in this case cutting an inch and a quarter hole in the rock by means of its diamonds, and having itself a three-quarter-inch bore. When the drill had nearly disappeared in the rock another length of cylinder was screwed into the end of the diamondtipped segment and the boring was continued. Every hour or so another length of steel tubing was added until at one hundred and three feet there were, in this case, twenty or more segments of steel pipe with a continuous three-quarter-inch bore. In order to introduce food or supplies into the mine it was necessary to withdraw the whole length of the segmented steel cylinder, introduce the food into the first segment, and then re-insert the whole drill.

To carry out the operation successfully, containers for the food had to be improvised. The little general store in the village was ransacked for bottles, and several were found which would fit into the drill. Then some toothbrush cases were found and later some tin vials. Into the drill went little bottles of dilute brandy, golden syrup, chocolate, grapes, sodium bicarbonate (in response to Dr. Robertson’s demand for something to control his heartburn), matches, candles, and cigarettes — and down it went into the mine. Half the troubles seemed to have been solved.

Then came a difficulty which threw everyone back into anxiety. When the third load of food went down and the drill was withdrawn, it was found that nothing had been taken out of the tube. Why had they not come to the drill and why would they not answer the signal calls? For a long time these questions were unanswered, but by and by Dr. Robertson came to the drill hole and shouted that they were not hungry, that they found it very difficult and dangerous to get to the mouth of the tube, and that in order to talk at the tube they had to stand under a deluge of ice-cold water, which was pouring in around the drill hole. He said they found it very dangerous to go down the ladder to the tube, as their feet were becoming so insensitive that they could not feel the rungs and they were afraid of falling down the shaft. He agreed to return in two hours.

This conversation set everyone thinking of means to spare the men the necessity of coming to the tube, and a telephone message was sent to Halifax requesting that one hundred and fifty feet of rubber tubing be sent out by aeroplane. It also raised the spectre of the possibility that the rushing water might flood the mine and drown the men before they could be released. This horrid thought never left our minds till the rescue had been accomplished.

When Scadding came to the drill hole again the rubber tube was passed down and he dragged it away to their resting place at the station above. They at once took a dislike to it, however, as it blocked the drill hole so that conversation was impossible and the food which was sent down in the form of soup was cold and unpalatable. Scadding was annoyed with it because, when he picked up the tube to try to get some soup out of it, somebody on top put an air blast on and he got a deluge of soup in his face.

In the meantime telegrams were arriving from all over Canada with suggestions as to what might be done. Some were good and some were simply funny. One of the latter was to the effect that fifty cauldrons of soup should be poured down the drill hole through a funnel. All that would be necessary then would be for the men to lap up the soup and live merrily ever after.

At this point the Nova Scotia Telephone Company sent out one of its men with a little transmitter which could be passed down the drill hole. This was one of the bright ideas which did much to change defeat to victory. Like so many important inventions, it was not complete at the first thought, for, while it provided a perfect method for those in the mine to talk to those above, it did not enable those above to speak to the men below. Within a few hours a dozen people had suggested a combination receiver and transmitter and the company had made up sets which could pass down the drill hole, but as the imprisoned men never came back to the hole again they never knew that this beautiful little instrument was hanging there at the opening waiting for them.

During these exciting hours at the entrance to the drill hole, one sombre thought troubled all. Herman Magill had never spoken, had not asked for his wife. Was all well with him? Dr. Robertson in his first message had said that all three were alive, but had not further mentioned Magill. Then, at three o’clock Monday morning, — one week after the fall, — Dr. Robertson signaled for Charlie Ivey and told him that Magill had died. He died with symptoms which sounded to me like perforated gastric or duodenal ulcer, with a terminal pneumonia, but at the subsequent inquest it was stated that he died of pneumonia.

Magill was a young lawyer thirty-one years of age, of delicate physique and pretty high-strung nervous system — a clever, ambitious, energetic young man. He lacked the toughness of fibre that would enable a man to stand the physical and mental torture of those long days in the mine. From the first he was pessimistic in regard to their situation and much depressed by an obsession that he was responsible for the predicament of the others. Within twenty-four hours he was seriously ill, and from then on he gradually sank under the strain. His death cast a gloom over the camp and brought home to all the conviction that, while the drill hole had saved their lives for the time being, not a moment was to be lost if the other two were to be brought out alive.


Up to this point my story has been based on what I have been told by my wife and Mrs. Robertson, Mr. Ivey, the government men, and the miners, and by my friend Dr. Robertson and Scadding. At ten o’clock on Monday night the long rail journey from Toronto to Shubenacadie, and thence by dreadful mud roads through Centre and Middle Musquodoboit to Moose River, came to an end, and I stood at the door of the cottage which served as the office of the Moose River Mines. Eight or ten other whitewashed cottages, a schoolhouse, a church, and a general store constituted the village. The cottage had been turned into a makeshift hospital and equipped as well as possible by Drs. H. K. Macdonald and Rankin of Halifax.

A quarter of a mile away to the northwest the sky was aglare with the lights and fires at the mine, and the sound of gas engines and rock drills broke the stillness of the night. Armed with an electric torch, I picked my way across muddy fields and through piles of crushed rock to the collection of rough wooden buildings that are characteristic of a small mine. The whole area was lit up by a hastily installed electric light plant and by flares and a bonfire.

Right in front of me was a great depression in the earth, a hundred yards by a hundred feet, with a depth varying from fifteen to thirty feet. This was the abyss that Higgins had beheld when he looked out of his shaft house that Easter Sunday night.

At one end there was a sheer drop of thirty feet with the timbered supports of an underground working in full sight. In several places there were great cracks in the earth, sometimes a few inches and sometimes a foot wide, down which one could peer many feet below. Where rock was exposed it was crushed and fragmented into pieces the size of an ordinary book. But in several places medium-sized spruce trees were standing in the midst of that chasm apparently quite undisturbed by their fall.

The impression I received from the first view of that awful smash — and this was not changed by familiarity with the scene — was that nothing but a miracle could have protected the men from immediate death. I have no quarrel whatever with those who thought that an attempt at rescue was not worth while.

On my left, a little to the east of the depression, men were working at the mouth of a pit which had once been the Reynolds shaft. Its mouth was almost overgrown with underbrush, but into it had just been built a wooden box about three by three and one-half feet which went almost vertically downward for twelve feet to the foot wall of the old shaft. Through this shaft men dressed in rubber miners’ clothes and wearing hard hats and carbide lamps were passing up pails of crushed rock and passing down short sticks of timber about six inches by four inches by four feet long. These timbers were ordered from below by telephone from a man equipped with earphones, who sat at the mouth of the pit. Just at this moment the shift changed and I saw for the first time Morell, Hirshfield, and Simpson, young draegermen from the Stellarton Coal Mines, come out of the mine for their hours of rest. Morell told me that they were getting on slowly and that they would certainly get through with any luck at all. These lads filled me with confidence, and while there were times when the hearts of all sank, I knew that real men were at work below.

To those who are unfamiliar with coal mining, it should be explained that a draegerman is a particularly skillful and robust young miner who has been specially trained in rescue work. In coal mines this has to do particularly with gas explosions and gas poisoning, but it also covers the rock falls and various other accidents that may occur in any mine. This job of tunneling through broken rock was one to which these draegermen were not unaccustomed, and when to their experience were added the enthusiasm of youth and the most cold-blooded courage, the stage was well set for a rescue.

Soon afterward I found that these hundred and seventy-five miners were working under skillful direction, and I met three young engineers — Gordon, Lawrence, and Phillips — who went below with their shifts and directed operations there. These were the leaders of the draegermen.

About midnight a thickset shortish miner who was certainly beyond middle life heaved himself out of the shaft, and I found myself face to face with the Honorable Michael Dwyer, Minister of Mines in the government of Nova Scotia. Here he was, at nearly sixty years of age, reverting to the days of his youth as a miner and joining in the adventure with the greatest gusto. When the diamond drill demonstrated that men were alive below, this onetime miner sprang to action and took the leadership in what he believed concerned the honor of the province. No one knew better than he the risks that attended the advancing of a tunnel through that crushed and moving rock, and no one saw more clearly the blemish that would appear on his good name if he sent young miners to their death. But Mike Dwyer never hesitated. Into a new suit of miner’s clothes he got himself, and down he went with the boys, happy in the thought that if the old shaft caved in — well, he at least had gone with them. ‘Politics!’ some have said. Yes, but what politics!

Moving to the right along the edge of the depression, I came to the ruins of the old shaft house which had been torn down that day to provide timbers for the mine. Among the débris I could see the entrance to the Magill shaft completely sealed off by the crushed and fallen rock. Behind the mouth of the shaft was a bunkhouse in which fifty or sixty miners were lying on camp beds. Some were asleep, but others were talking in whispers. These young men were all volunteers from the coal and gold mines or men sent in by the government.

A little farther to the right along the edge of the depression was the pump house containing the boiler which supplied the power. Stepping into this house, I found myself in a room about thirty feet by thirty, crowded with workmen and reporters. The men were lying about the boiler on the mud floor, and one had to step carefully to avoid treading on them as they lay. On the opposite wall were two telephones, and each had a guardian in charge of it who made the calls and settled the charges. The Moose River telephone system is a party line with eighteen telephones attached to it, so that one can imagine the uproar caused by twenty reporters fighting to get through to their papers. Several times in this pump house I heard calls from Chicago, Roston, and London, England, and a great deal of the false information that was published in the daily papers must have resulted from the imperfections of the telephone.

A conversation between Mrs. Robertson and the London Daily News will illustrate the trouble.

‘Hello, is that Mrs. Robertson?’


‘Hello. This is London calling, the London Daily News. Is that Mrs. Robertson at Moose River?’


Click, click, click, as the eighteen receivers came down.

Very faintly: ‘Mrs. Robertson, have you talked to your husband in the mine?’

‘Will you please put up your receivers? This is Mrs. Robertson talking to London and I can’t hear.’ Click, click, as the receivers went up.


‘Yes, I talked to my husband.’ (Bang! ‘Shut that door! The lady is talking to London.’)

‘What did he say?’

‘He said, “Hello, Pauline, how are you?”’

‘And what—’ (Explosive outburst from near the boiler: ‘Get off my feet! You are standing on my foot!’)

‘And what did he say?’

‘Oh, I can’t remember.’

‘Did he say anything?’ (Zzz-zzzzz!)

‘I can’t hear. Please put up your receivers.’ Click, click, click.

‘Did he say anything of human interest?’

‘No; he just said, “How are the boys?”’

And so on and so on for twenty minutes or more. Next morning the London Daily News prints in large type its conversation with Mrs. D. E. Robertson at Moose River in Nova Scotia.

Behind the pump house was a car in which were four young men intent on sheaves of notes arranged on their knees. As I watched, one of them picked up a broadcasting transmitter and began to broadcast directly from the mouth of the mine. I could not hear what he said, but I heard afterwards that he had said plenty. The broadcast of that Monday night so stirred up the people of this country that business literally ceased in the shops in Toronto, women were fainting beside their radio sets, and the wives of the miners threatened to mob the government in Halifax unless their husbands were taken out of that mine.

Next morning the Honorable Michael Dwyer called a meeting of the radio men and reporters, and from the tail end of the army ambulance made a memorable speech.

‘Boys,’ he said, ‘I have a message from the Prime Minister that things are not right here in the matter of the news and the broadcasts. Now, as you can see, I have n’t time to censor what you write or say and I do not intend to try to do so. I simply wish to state that the next time an inaccurate or inflammatory statement goes out from this camp, every damned one of you will be out of this county in ten minutes. Sergeant [speaking to the noncom. of the Mounted Police], that is an order. Gentlemen, good day!’

From Monday on, there was a marked improvement in the quality of the news from Moose River.


A little farther on, at a point about opposite to the Reynolds shaft, was the diamond-drill hole. This was indicated by a two-inch pipe running obliquely into the earth at an angle of about sixty degrees and in an easterly direction. Down this passed the wire of the one-way telephone. Attached to it were three sets of headphones, and round about lay the batteries and other equipment, in charge of two representatives of the Nova Scotia Telephone Company.

Fitting a pair of earphones on my head, I could at once hear the murmur of voices down below, at first very muffled; but as things quieted down I could distinctly hear somebody hiccoughing and coughing and I at once recognized Robertson’s cough. Almost immediately there came a scuffling noise as of a wire or the microphone being dragged along the rocks, and then Scadding clearly called, ‘Hello! Is Phil Henderson there?’ The answer, ‘No,’ was bawled down the pipe by a leather-lunged moose caller, and then Scadding asked us to send for him. The answer was, ‘Yes, yes.’ The reason for this queer performance was that Robertson and Scadding would not come to the deep end of the drill hole any more and so could not hear anything shouted above. They could, however, distinguish between ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No,’and this had accordingly been agreed upon as the method of communication from above. To my dying day I shall be able to hear that intoned moose call at the mouth of the diamond drill.

Talking to Henderson, the mine manager, Scadding gave explicit information as to where they were and how he thought they could be reached. He complained that the rock drills which had seemed to be directly above them had not been heard for some hours and that they were getting discouraged. He said they were very cold and wet, that the feet of both were very painful, and that they were altogether miserable. He felt that unless they could be taken out in a few hours they were done for. This, I must say at once, was the only querulous note that came from those two men during the seventy-two hours during which at intervals I wore the headphones.

As the night wore on I heard frequent coughing and hiccoughing and from time to time the unmistakable sound of vomiting. Then suddenly came the voice of Eddie Robertson calling for his brother-in-law, Charlie Ivey. ‘Hello, Charlie! What time is it? Is it night?’ ‘Yes, yes.’ ‘Is it one o’clock?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is it two o’clock?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is it three o’clock?’ ‘No.’ ‘Four o’clock?’ ‘Yes, yes.’ ‘So it is four o’clock on Wednesday morning?’ ‘Yes, yes.‘

This answer was incorrect, as he had skipped a day, but it was too difficult to correct him. He then explained that they were in a crosscut close to the station on the one-hundred-and-forty-foot level, that the Magill shaft had collapsed to a point twenty-five or thirty feet above them, and that the rock was held back by several huge fallen timbers. He could climb up the shaft to that point. This information was at once communicated to the engineers in the Reynolds shaft and encouraged them in their efforts to tunnel through to the eighty-foot level.

About every two hours one of them called. Usually it was to inquire in regard to progress. ‘How long do you think it will be before you reach us? Six hours?’ ‘No.’ ‘Seven hours?’ ‘No.’ ‘Eight hours?’ ‘Yes,yes.’ When forty-eight hours more had gone by and we still had not reached them, their confidence in us must have been sadly shaken.

By Tuesday night there was added to the coughing and vomiting the sound of deep and frequent groans. Robertson explained that Scadding was suffering intense pain in his feet, due to trench feet, and he suggested that when the miners arrived they should bring a hypodermic so that he could give him some morphia. As for himself, he said he never felt better and that he expected a first-class dinner when he came up.

All Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the groaning continued, and during that time Scadding did not talk. Then he suddenly returned to the phone and his voice sounded quite cheery and strong. He explained that the pain had gone out of his feet and he was feeling better, but that he thought the Doctor was getting very drowsy and he advised us to hurry.

The sad explanation of Scadding’s recovery was that his feet, in their anterior portions, had finally become gangrenous, so that he no longer felt pain or anything else.

Dr. Robertson told me afterward that he had been dozing while Scadding was talking, but that he had wakened in time to hear what was said about his becoming drowsy. This thought preyed somewhat on his mind and he began to wonder whether it was possible that he might be going off his head. He accordingly called for his wife in order that he might speak to her while his mind was still reasonably clear. Then followed one of the strangest and most pathetic conversations that ever came over a telephone wire. What he said is a sacred memory to her to whom the words were spoken and must not be written here, but the courtly manner in which he thanked his wife for the twenty years of happiness she had given him and the explicit directions he gave for the arrangements for the payment of the succession duties on his estate — and this all telephoned from a black hole in the bowels of the earth — affected me in a way I could never have thought possible.

About noon on Wednesday, things began to happen. Good progress had been made in the Reynolds shaft and the miners had found a place where they were able to advance twenty feet in a few minutes. This led to the premature report that the mine would be entered in half an hour and that the rescue would soon be accomplished. At least three hundred people were gathered about the mouth of the pit and all was astir with excitement. Then the report came up that a blank wall had been reached and that once more recourse must be had to the pick and shovel. Slowly the crowds went back to Halifax and the mine settled down to its routine.

Then about five or six o’clock Robertson suddenly shouted, ‘Hello, hello, hello,’ and then immediately called us on the surface to know if we had shouted ‘Hello.’ We answered, ‘No.’ ‘Then it must have been somebody else calling to us.’ This was their first clear evidence that the rescue crew were on their way.

From that time forward all was excitement. Reports came from the Reynolds shaft that the tracks in the Magill slope had been picked up and that the miners were burrowing over and under the ties and timbering as they went. At the telephone we could hear the hammering as the timbers were rammed home and we knew that the miners could not be far from the microphone. Dr. Robertson and Scadding reported that they could last forever and that when they came up they would bring us a fine sample of water and some nuggets.

At midnight the Honorable Michael Dwyer came out of the mine with the retiring shift and his face was puzzled and anxious. Something had gone wrong with their calculations and they had gone farther than seemed reasonable. Also, the last few feet of advance had been through rails and timbers that had to be sawn through and that were perhaps the only security against another collapse of the mine. He had begun to fear that their hopes of an early break-through were again to be disappointed and that the slow process of tunneling and timbering would have to be resumed.

The new shift headed by Gordon, with the draegermen Hirshfield, Simpson, and Morell in the van, had just gone down and had been at work not more than five minutes when Charlie Ivey came running over from the diamond-drill hole with the news that Eddie Robertson had just called at the phone that the miners had cut through the wall of rock and that he would be up in a few minutes.

Mr. Dwyer could not believe the news and at once sent a messenger down the shaft for a report. The messenger returned almost at once with the joyful news that the men were through and that the draegermen had crawled through a small hole in the wall and were with Robertson and Scadding in their crosscut. Then all was hurry and excitement as brandy and morphia and blankets and ropes were rushed to the shaft head and the Minister of Mines, Mr. Dwyer, and the Minister of Health, Doctor Davis, descended to the one-hundred-and-forty-foot level and welcomed the visitors from Ontario.

The scene when the men came to the surface beggars description. The flares, the flashes of the photographers, the movie camera men, the Mounties in their fine uniforms, the Army Medical Corps with their ambulance and stretchers, the Salvation Army, all made a picture I shall see forever. Then, to my amazement, I saw Eddie Robertson coming up the shaft under his own steam. His first words were ’Thank you to somebody who gave him a helping hand out of the shaft and he never said anything that resembled what was reported in Time. As he stepped out bravely into the glare of the flashes he was leaped upon by the Army Medical Corps, who forced him down on to a stretcher and then proceeded to dump him off again when the right rear bearer let go his handle. No harm done, and with much merriment he was loaded into the ambulance, jolted over the fields to the temporary hospital at the mining office, and, as he says in his story to the Red Cross, ‘I was taken out of the ambulance, carried into the office, and — there was my wife.’

A few minutes later Alf Scadding was carried out amid cheers and rejoicing and followed the doctor to the hospital. The poor fellow could not walk, as his feet were bad, but his spirit was unbroken and he will live to walk again. As I rode with him in the ambulance to the aeroplane which was to take him to the hospital in Halifax, he said, ‘Doctor, you should have seen the beautiful stringers of gold and quartz dowm in that mine after the stopes fell in!’

Down at the mine all was rejoicing. Led by two officers of the Salvation Army and standing around the mouth of the Reynolds shaft in the glare of the flares and bonfires, two hundred men in hard hats and carbide lamps sang ‘Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.’ And then the Mounted Police, those wise guardians of frontier law and order, looked far away at the crescent moon as a keg of Jamaica rum was rolled in — and, boy! did the lid come off!