Tourists visiting Yellowstone and doing something life-threatening – name a more iconic duo.
An Australian woman recently captured footage of not just one, but several people walking off the designated path and onto a hydrothermal feature, putting them dangerously close to scalding steam. Belle Jaeschke, the photographer, said that the people made the illegal move to enter the area rife with hydrothermal vents and geysers to take pictures, with one person even “pretending to warm their hands with the steam”.
Luckily for them, no one got hurt, but they were entirely unaware of how close to death they may have been. If they weren’t showered in boiling water, the geyser basin crust can be thin enough to break under a person's weight, plunging them into a blistering layer of water and mud. The waters are more than hot enough to kill people, with hydrothermal features being the number one cause of death in Yellowstone Park.
The footage was shared on Tourons of Yellowstone (“touron”, an amalgamation of tourist and moron, being our new favorite word) and has been shared across social media, though there is no word whether officials will be bringing charges just yet.
There are many hydrothermal features in Yellowstone, but the one the couple stands on is a fumarole. Fumaroles are vents or cracks in the Earth’s surface where steam or volcanic gases escape, creating a characteristic hissing noise. In Yellowstone, these fumaroles have very little water below and what remains gets superheated into steam, reaching temperatures far hotter than what comes out of your kettle.
Many people think that the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone are like a pleasant bath, but around 20 people have died in the past from falling (or intentionally swimming) in these boiling features. They are considered extremely dangerous and should be admired from a decent distance, much like the wildlife.
So, avoid being a touron and stick to the paths, please.