Death, I mean. By drowning. We lost a few people out here again recently. And a few more came pretty damn close. The poor British whale-watchers off Tofino, a few salmon fishermen near Campbell River and a guy off a 60 footer just a few miles from us. I don’t know the numbers but more than a few people drowned in October in our local waters.
Bang! One minute they were dry, the next they were in the water and feeling very, very alone. It is unpleasant at the very least, panicking for most people and completely disabling for some. Keeping your wits about you is the first thing for survival but even that will only buy you a little time. If you don’t panic, you will immediately start to worry. And with good reason. Hard to swim fully clad. Distances to shore can be taxing. Darkness doesn’t help. And disorientation becomes a major factor as hypothermia sets in.
Hypothermia is the really big danger to face and it is always the winner if you engage with it too long. They say, being immersed for 20-25 minutes and it will begin to work at you and I am sure they are right but many bulky, well-clad types have managed a few hours so long as they could keep moving. Regardless, getting out of the water doesn’t eliminate hypothermia but it at least increases your chances. People on land still die of exposure from accidents of this kind.
We tend to ‘accept’ our environment as having danger but not really as being dangerous. And it is. And being is different than having. Being dangerous is like Black Widow spiders or an angry hippopotamus. Or being surrounded by water. The danger is always present even if it is not presenting in the moment.
But having danger is more like a gun. Unloaded, locked away or dismantled, a gun no longer has the potential for danger. You can neutralize it. Deep, cold, moving water is simply always dangerous. The drowning danger out here cannot ever be neutralized even with life jackets and the ever-ready coast guard. People with life jackets drown all the time if they are left in the freezing water too long.
It is almost impossible to see that when you live with it every day. Jump in the boat, get mail, see a friend, do a little beachcombing……all good. But maybe just a half hour from disaster at any given moment. And I have been there. Got wet. Got frightened a couple of times.
No one plans to fall in.
I suppose heavy urban traffic is much the same. But, heavy traffic seems like the danger it is. It presents as ugly. And we have measured that danger pretty accurately. Over 30 000 people die from traffic accidents in the USA every year while Canada has about 2000 to 3000. Traffic fatalities have killed more people than all the world wars put together. Traffic is an omnipresent danger, and we see that, we know that and yet, we tend to be accepting and unconscious of it most of the time. We wouldn’t get around much if we looked at urban traffic as the danger it really is.
We are like that, too, about the water. We see it as ‘occasionally’ dangerous, not omnipresent dangerous. We are only really vigilant in bad weather or at night. During the day, we are complacent. And we are wrong. More so than traffic watchers actually. Maybe because somehow the water seems more benign, less threatening.
We are proven wrong about that every year by losing some poor soul to the sea. This year no exception.