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Forty Hours Underground.

The NTeillsville (Wis.) “Republican” says.:—Last Friday, at nomi, a well being dug at the fair grounds caved in at the bottom after it had reached a depth of 116 feet, burying William Selves, a workman, under about thirteen feet of sand, measuring from his head while he was in a nearly upright position. The well had reached a depth of 100 feet when a stratum of loose, white sand was reached, which made curbing necessary. An upright curbing in sections four feet long was used. While putting in the fourth section the caving of the well took place, first crushing in the lower section not yet finished, and pinning Selves in solid sand nearly to the armpits. It was instantly followed by the throe sections above, whichwerecrushed into the centre, leaving a vacuum there. On seeing it start Selves had instinctively raised a section of the curbing over his head, bending backwards, face up, with the arm supporting the piece of curbing stretched above his head. In this position the sand settled about him, completely binding him except his head and one arm, which he could move at that time. The section curbing which he had raised above his head created a vacuum which for a short time communicated with the vacuum through the centre of the well made by the coming together of the barrel-like curbing. As soon as possible a gas pipe for the purpose of pumping air to him, was inserted through the opening, Selves, who then had one arm at liberty, placing it as near his mouth as the boards over him would permit. Soon after tlrs was accomplished the sand settled solidly above him, leaving only the vacuum under the board, which soon filled so close as to imprison the arm that had been at liberty, and to also render his head unmovable. In this situation, plainly depicted by himself in sepulchral tones through the air tube, and perfectly audible at the top of the well, William Selves, then six hours without food and cramped and chilled by the cold sand, said he would hold on to life if there were brave hearts enough above him to undertake his release, knowing full well the danger to those who might attempt it in a hurry. The task was to remove from thirteen to eighteen feet of sand from the bottom of a well 116 feet deep, by puttting in a new curbing while taking out the sand and debris of the old curbing, and to do it all so carefully as not to fill the little vacuum above his face. Coupled with this task was the appall ing danger to the workmen of a fresh caving in of the well, now more imminent than the first, for above the ominous vacuum made by the caving of the sand, hung the hundred feet of clay wall, with no support but its own adhesion, its natural foundation of sand being gone. The bore through the clay being but twenty-seven inches in diameter, could not, for lack of time and space, be curbed. In the face of these discouragements, there were brave hearts enough found to work night and day, never slackening, except for a short time on Saturday morning, when for a time further attempts seemed suicidal by reason of the caving in of a small portion of the clay wall. But soon new precautions were devised, and the almost hopeless 'work went on to its practical conclusion at one o’clock this (Sunday) morning, when a friendly hand raised the plank and brushed the sand from tho now nearly unconscious face. He had retained his mind perfectly up to a few moments before, when the tenderly cautious hand above him, in spite of their care, had so disturbed the sand as to cover his face and to interrupt the supply of air from the tube. He returned to perfect consciousness in a few moments, and, his head released, the work went rapidly on, he himself helping materially after his arms were released. At 3.30 o’clock, nearly thirty hours after his incarceration, William Selves stepped firmly from the mouth of his living grave, and was received into the arms of his young wife amid the glad shouts of the throng who had so long shared his suspense. His exertions in assisting to free himself had given him the use of his limbs again, and when he reached the surface about all he seemed to need was nourishment, which he had not had since the Friday morning before, nearly two days.

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Forty Hours Underground. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 26, 25 November 1879

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