A man is feared dead after plunging into a boiling hot spring in Yellowstone National Park and disappearing.
Efforts are being made to find him, although searchers are proceeding with understandable caution.
A visitor to the park – which is a major tourist attraction in the US north-west region – reported seeing a man in his early 20s walk off the boardwalk in the Norris Geyser Basin area and fall into a thermal spring.
Yellowstone Park’s website notes: “Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest, oldest, and most dynamic of Yellowstone’s active hydrothermal areas. The highest temperature yet recorded in any Yellowstone hydrothermal area was measured in a scientific drill hole at Norris: 459°F (237°C) just 1087 feet [331 metres] below the surface.”
Hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature, the park’s website adds. A question and answer section on the website is worth quoting:
Is it really dangerous to walk off the boardwalks in geyser basins?
YES. Geyser basins are constantly changing. Boiling water surges just under the thin crust of most geyser basins, and many people have been severely burned when they have broken through the fragile surface. Some people have died.
In Chile last October, a 68-year-old female tourist died after falling into a geyser at the world-famous El Tatio in the Antofagasta region. The victim was apparently trying to take a selfie.
Chilean police said later they believed the woman had been standing with her back to one of the geysers as she took the photo. There is no indication the male victim at Yellowstone Park was taking a selfie.
Thermal areas popular with tourists usually carry warning signs and barriers, but mishaps occur.
In 2010, a boy died after falling into a geyser in Rotorua, New Zealand. Rotorua’s hot pools have claimed several victims over the years, through the main threat, particularly among the elderly, is being overcome by “rotten egg” hydrogen sulphide gas in the pools.
Written by Peter Needham