I did a story a while back about Adventure Travel Sports and talked about people who go diving with sharks that have been attracted by chumming the waters; these particular divers were in the water without the benefit of a shark cage; one diver died. Who could have seen that one coming?
Recently I was catching up on my perpetual pile of backlogged magazines to read; in this case it was the December 2007 issue of National Geographic Adventure and happened on a couple of items I thought newsworthy or at least interesting to me.
Many of you will probably be familiar with the Jon Krakauer story, Into the Wild, about a young man named Chris McCandless, who died in the Alaska outback. There has been much discussion as to what McCandless did right or wrong and what really happened. The book was made into a movie, directed by Sean Penn, and now is out on DVD. Adventure magazine did a follow-up piece called Back into the Wild that lead to some interesting letters to the magazine.
One particular letter caught my eye as it suggested a simple, common sense concept that sometimes seems is not quite so simple or maybe that some common sense was not so common. A D. Michael Matson, of Fresno, CA, compared the story of McCandless with what happened to Timothy “Grizzly Man” Treadwell, who had a similar fate up in Alaska:
“Both men headed into the Alaska outback well-intentioned but failed to truly contemplate their fate. As I see it, life can be viewed as a series of out-and-backs. If we want to come back, we must be fit, prepared, and willing to turn around. The ego can be the biggest enemy of establishing when it’s time to do so.”
I found the term “out-and-back” elegantly simple but encompassing what often seems to be lost in the planning or execution of a trip. Of course, stuff happens, but within reason contingencies are also part of the equation.
A separate story in the same December 2007 issue by James Vlahos, under the heading of Special Report, discussed the search effort for one of the world’s most acclaimed pilots and sailors, Steve Fossett, who disappeared on September 3, 2007 after taking off from a private strip west of Hawthorne, Nevada. Fossett was considered one of the most competent pilots in the world and his disappearance remains a mystery almost to the level of Amelia Earhart.
While the report reviews the various opinions as to how the search was carried out, a reference was made as to how as experience increases, so does the incidence of death or serious problems, which might seem counter-intuitive.
“…according to scientists in the field of risk analysis. The rate of death for experienced kayakers, for example, is nearly four times higher than it is among inexperienced ones. A study of 622 U.S. avalanche incidents between 1972 and 2001 found that people with avalanche training made more risk perception errors than people without.”
So what is happening?
Does more training make you stupid?
Probably not, but apparently it might make you, excuse the expression, more cocky, as in “I’m a professional, I know what I am doing.”
It probably does not take too many dots to connect the concept of out-and-back with don’t get cavalier.
Please be careful out there and come back…I need all the readers I can find.