Bow of the TITANIC
Photo by NOAA / Unsplash

They're dead. Why this is important to all of us

By this time, much of the world, at least those with any interest at all, are well aware of the loss of those in the sub en route to view the Titanic. While I am sorry for the fates and families of those involved, I'm going to use this example, since adventure travel is my personal lane, to make a few observations that I've not yet seen plumbed adequately in all the material on this very public and exquisitely unnecessary drama.

Given that the uber UBER rich can afford to, and will, increasingly take further risks afield from space flights to undersea excursions, let's talk.

First, the space- or the ocean- doesn't give a flying poop how rich you are. Ask those who went down on the Titanic, whose money didn't save them, either. Horrible things happen to all of us, and when we are foolish enough to subject ourselves to very real dangers, we get to reap those benefits, too.

Sometimes they really suck. Just ask me and my battered body. I got really good at taking those risks, sometimes I misfired. But every single time I was prepared not only for the aftermath but also the costs involved. My risk, my responsibility.

Those who have great riches expect huge rescue missions, which you and I as taxpayers subsidize and do NOT receive any gratification for, thank you. I will disregard plenty of other perfectly legitimate complaints that those lost at sea in refugee ships are not afforded such luxury. Plenty of examples abound and better writers have taken that topic on.

The way I see it folks, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

No matter how many billions the passengers had, no matter how experienced the crew, shit happens. The article reports a "catastrophic event." That is the very nature of such adventures. I can only imagine- because I've been too close myself in other adventure situations- how people felt when it was clear that this was it.

No matter how "peaceful" it may have been at the end- one of the most embarrassingly stupid titles I have yet seen on the topic of the submersible- my guess is that the ending was pretty awful for everyone. They often are especially when a four-hour adventure turns out to be a permanent death trip.

Billions didn't save those people, nor their fame nor much of anything else. They took their chances with a guy who was very proud of spitting in the face of safety inspections.

Loss of life in any situation is painful for the families. In the case of those too rich to know better, and whose exploits cost us millions in taxpayer money, you will forgive me if I have a hard time managing crocodile tears. The one person on board about whom I feel badly is the billionaire's son, who apparently was terrified. Perhaps he had already done his research on the shockingly cavalier attitude about the vehicle's safety on the part of the now-deceased CEO:

Metro reports that last year, when asked about the safety of the Titan submersible, Stockton Rush, OceanGate’s CEO, said, “You know, there’s a limit. At some point safety just is pure waste. I mean if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything. At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules.”

This attitude perfectly mirrors that of so very many arrogant asswipes whose antics nearly got others killed or injured, including this author, in years of adventure travel.

My friend Melissa , who spent years in elder hospice, reported the shock and dismay of those uber-rich who had reached old age. "I never thought this would happen to me," they would wail, as though extreme wealth could stave off any of life's worst, including injury, death, disease and the infirmities of old age. Money saves us from some things but not the most essential.

A lot of our money was spent, as it is every single year for rescue missions for horribly unprepared people in search of the epic selfie or bragging rights, to try to rescue a few very rich/famous people.

Not worth it, from the public's standpoint. If you're going to take such chances, then do it with  YOUR money, and kindly stop expecting the rest of the world to subsidize your adventures.

This would not hit so hard were it not for three factors:

-My own twelve years' watching genuinely foolish, unprepared, untrained and dangerous people try all kinds of stunts which put others at risk in every sport I've ever tried and gotten good at performing from skydiving to horse riding

-My 25-year friendship with a wildlands firefighter/EMT, whose horror stories about inexperienced people trying to re-create Outside Magazine cover photos end badly, which again, put the rescue team at risk

-The increasing number of stories from all over the world of dumb people inserting themselves into situations for which they were woefully unprepared. To wit, one negative-IQ guy who bonked on Kilimanjaro. When asked if he had bothered to train, he responded, "Well, I did a little Stairmaster." For a twenty-thousand-foot mountain, no less.

There's a very good reason that insurance companies no longer fly people off the mountain just because they're tired. They're tired of spending thousands of dollars for helicopters to ferry irresponsible tourists exhausted by adventures they didn't take seriously.

Mother Nature has a brutal tendency to scrape experienced athletes off the face of the Earth like extra peanut butter. Every year, the changing climate and people's determination to break some record for their ten minutes of fleeting fame leave families and friends devastated.

At least those folks knew what they were getting into. One acquaintance of mine trained for Everest several years in a row, was there during the earthquake of 2105 and went back to summit in 2017. He trains like a banshee for those conditions. We have to if we expect to survive.

While high-dollar extreme tourism often doesn't require serious training, too many other adventures do. And too many people simply cannot be bothered to put in the time and dime to train.

The rules don't work for them, maybe, or they've watched WAY too many movies. Or both. At this point I no longer care.

I feel the same way about these numbnuts as I do about people who insist on getting too close to a huge wild animal and expecting it to say "cheese." I hope you lose a large part of your buttocks, folks. No crocodile tears for that either.

Why do I feel so strongly? Because increasingly there are more people crowding into spaces they don't belong, refusing to prepare, and expecting other people's money to pay for their rescue. Blaming the wild animal for not being a tame doggy- doggy. Putting a selfie above safety. I'm done with it.

Nature isn't kind to stupid. She isn't kind to well-trained athletes who push the boundaries either. The difference is that the latter have a fighting chance to give it another try.

I am completely in alignment with those folks who point out that the true "adventurers" are those willing to give up all they know to try to carve out a better life in another country. They have my utmost respect, and they deserve more than a brief mention against the idiocy of a few rich people, led by an arrogant jerk, who cost society millions in wasted tax dollars.

But that's just this adventure athlete.

the author after kayaking in the Arctic Ocean (on left)

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