A 21-year-old man from North Carolina fell into a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park and managed to survive. Not the first hot springs incident to happen, many are wondering how the man was able to escape the flesh-boiling temperatures that claimed countless lives before him. Here’s what the experts have to say about it.
Yellowstone is widely known for its natural beauty and volcanic activity but hidden in its treasured landscapes are hot springs. Not the only dangerous element in the 3,500 square foot area, hot springs can be unpredictable and have been known to shoot boiling water into the air like geysers. There are over 10,000 known thermal (meaning hot and active) features in Yellowstone.
Because of the unpredictability of hot springs, exact temperatures are not a constant. According to geologists, hot springs can reach devastating temperatures of 199 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius) or higher. If any organic material were to fall in, a human being, for example, it would be the equivalent of swimming in battery acid. The tissue would be melted like butter in a frying pan.
The 21-year-old is not the first human being to have fallen in. In fact, just last year a 23-year old man from Oregon took a dip in one of the hot springs. Less than 24 hours later, his body was unrecoverable because it had completely dissolved. Looking over Yellowstone’s checkered past, twenty-two people have died since 1890 after falling into the hot springs. Considering the park’s strict safety guidelines, why do people continue to be hurt or killed by hot springs?
The answer, it seems, is simple. Though warned to stay on the paths, visitors continue to veer off the walkways and travel into areas of the park deemed dangerous. A few people in history have been said to go “hot-potting”, a term for skinny dipping in hot springs and died moments after bathing in 202 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. This is one of those instances in which curiosity kills and the warning signs should be heeded.
Identified as Gervais Dylan Gatete from Raleigh, North Carolina, the 21-year-old man survived a fall into a boiling hot spring with third-degree burns. He is in critical but stable condition. Despite Yellowstone’s deadly, park rangers remain hopeful that for once, people choose to stay on the designated paths rather than risk a potential a slip into the acidic springs that have thus far spared only Gatete.