In 2019 the Whakaari Volcano erupted. Briefly. For just a couple of minutes.
22 people died. Tourists. Visiting an active volcano that had erupted twice in the last nine years.
The documentary now on Netflix is a minute-by-minute account of what happened that day. There was plenty of cell phone imagery and first-hand accounts from survivors. It’s a riveting documentary and well worth watching. Interestingly it was directed by Rory Kennedy. One wonders at her interest in disaster given it was her wedding the JFK Jr was flying to when his plane went down.
The stories are heart-rending as is the loss of life and the pain and suffering of those survivors who are still undergoing surgeries due to the burns they sustained.
The senior guide was on his 1,111th trip to the island. He’d been doing it for ten years. Which means the volcano had erupted twice before, at night, during his tenure.
While some might decry it as Monday morning quarterbacking, even one of the survivors felt this way before the eruption as she was there, very reluctantly, with her husband on their honeymoon. Why do you go to an active volcano that has a known record of recent eruptions? You are basically rolling the dice. Yes, the odds are with you. But are they necessary odds to take?
I’ve done numerous dangerous things in my life in the military, but as I always said about them, it was for mission. It was my duty. There are a couple of times when I should have died and frankly was just lucky.
I’ve done some daring things while out in nature, but I try very hard to err on the side of caution. I’ve gotten out my Jeep while off-roading and walked a trail far ahead to make sure I can turn around and get out rather than get stuck. I’ve backed off from a lot of dangerous routes others have taken.
Going to an active volcano with known recent eruptions that is an hour and a half from help would be a non-starter. Several survivors expressed surprise about the prior eruptions. Even a rudimentary Area Study would have informed them of that. They thought the tours would mention it. Really?
An Area Study not only points out dangers, it also shows opportunities. I keep a binder of planned Jeep trips with stuff I download about the locations. When I went out to Monument Valley this year, I did searches for various things including remote camping sites. That’s where I learned about Valley of the Gods. I wouldn’t have turned off at the tiny sign on the highway to Monument Valley if I hadn’t done that research. And I really loved driving through there and spent the night.
With the Internet we have more access to information than any other time in history. You can do a basic Area Study in minutes and a detailed one for preparation in a day. Why not do it?