Yellowstone National Park gets a lot of attention because of the supervolcanic magma chamber grumbling beneath its surface. Yes, one day in the distant future it will erupt again and there’s a solid chance that it will be utterly catastrophic to anyone and everyone – but in the meantime, it appears the park itself is proving to be dangerous enough to those dying to win a Darwin Award.
As reported by the National Park Service (NPS), a 21-year-old man from Raleigh, North Carolina has just taken a tumble into one of Yellowstone’s hot springs. The last time this happened – just last year, in fact – the man couldn’t escape, and within 24 hours he had completely dissolved and melted away like a cube of butter in a frying pan.
In this case, however, the man survived. It appears he managed to only fall waist-deep into the hot spring just north of the Old Faithful area, and was either hauled out or managed to clamber out himself. Shortly afterward, he was flown to hospital.
It’s not yet clear how this happened, but in order for him to have fallen in in the first place, he needed to have veered off the boardwalk around the spring, and ignored all the signs telling him to do precisely the opposite along the way. He must have stood right on the edge of the spring before the underlying, fragile rocks gave way and he slipped in.
This would not have been a pleasant experience.
Imagine you’re in the bath right now, and it’s at the perfect temperature, and you’re all calm and relaxed and all your stress is simply melting away into nothingness. Nice, right? Well now imagine that the water suddenly reaches a temperature of 93°C (199°F), and takes on the strength of gastric acid.
Essentially, you are being digested in near-boiling water, and your skin is on fire, and everything is awful.
That is what the man from last year experienced when he fell into his hot spring after trying to show off to his friend. This new victim of boldness-before-brains would have had a similar experience, but he likely only suffered a full thickness burn from his waist downwards.
This means that his skin layers would have lost all their water and turned into a weird type of leather, just as his subcutaneous fat layers would have begun to boil off and his blood vessels began to burst. It’s unclear how long he was submerged for, but if it was more than a minute, his nerve endings would have been destroyed.
Hopefully he makes a full recovery – but people, can you please stop trying to turn yourself into human soup?