Mt Kilauea continues to spew lava, months after its initial eruption on Hawaii’s big island, and the volcano is quickly becoming a tourist attraction for adventurous travelers. In fact, a flotilla of chartered pleasure boats can be seen on a daily basis in the water near the volcano as they bring people as close to this natural wonder as possible. Unfortunately, one of these boats got a little too-close for comfort, and a lava bomb struck the craft and injured almost two dozen passengers.
Minimal Safety Zone
At the time of the incident, a restricted zone extended 50 yards from the edge of the lava that was flowing into the ocean. However, after this rouge bomb struck the craft in question, authorities extended the no-go area to around 350 yards. Think about that for a second. Anyone who has been following the eruption knows that lava bombs can fly a lot farther than 50 yards, and some people on land were a lot farther away when they were struck.
Yet, the same threat exists on water, and officials didn’t think that it was necessary to establish a wider safety buffer out of an abundance of caution. Consequently, profit-seeking boat operators started ferrying tourists who were willing to pay a premium in order to tease nature and tempt fate. Fortunately, when the lava bomb struck the boat and caused hot goo to splatter all over the deck area, it didn’t harm the engine, and the boat was able to get back to shore on its own power.
Can you imagine if the mishap disabled the boat and caused the group to be stranded? Think of being burned by hot lava, or having bones shattered when it struck, but you had to wait for hours for rescue to show up. Helicopters can’t fly due to the risk of lava bombs, and boats would undoubtedly have to approach the area with caution, which would extend the response time. Pain and suffering would be immense, and there is also the risk that the boat could be struck again as it can’t maneuver to safety.
In fact, it can be argued that people on land can dodge flaming fireballs a lot easier than those on sea simply by virtue of being able to quickly sidestep and get out of the path. On the other hand, it takes time to rev up a boat’s engine and sail away. Clearly, 50 yards is not far enough to provide an ample margin of safety, but 350 yards isn’t much better in all reality either.
Don’t Let Guard Down
This situation illustrates how it’s important to use good judgment and give nature the respect it deserves. It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, particularly when officials establish no-go zones. They give the impression that things are safe outside of that boundary, but this accident shows us how this isn’t always the case. People also placed a lot of trust in boat operators to avoid areas that could be hazardous as well.
At the end of the day, the government will be blamed for not creating a larger buffer, and boat operators will be blamed for pushing the edge of the envelope to please their customers. However, the tourists should also shoulder some of the blame for being willing to put themselves in danger in the first place.
The lesson to take away from this is that we are responsible for our own safety despite whatever attempts are made by others to keep us out of harm’s way. Sometimes avoiding trouble altogether is the most-prudent course of action to take, even if it means walking away from experiencing rare and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Think of the countless injuries and deaths that occur every year as people end up where they shouldn’t be when Mother Nature gets ornery. Don’t be one of them. Take guidelines and promises of safety with a grain of salt, assess potential risks, and use good judgment when weighing the pros and cons. No encounter with nature’s ferocious beauty is worth sacrificing our lives over.
What happened to these tourists is a vivid reminder that tempting fate often comes with consequences, and these can be avoided altogether simply by being prudent and cautious.