Book offers cautionary tales for Hawaii’s visitors
ONE shouldn't laugh at the misfortunes of others, but this very serious book makes it hard not to. Michael Perkins takes a well-documented look at the hazards tourists face when they visit Hawaii, and in the process provides a sometimes astounding catalog of human folly.
"Surviving Paradise: True Life and Death Stories of Hawaii's Hidden Dangers -- With Advice From Rescue Experts on How to Enjoy the Islands Safely"
By Michael C. Perkins
(338 pages, $24.95)
May be ordered through bookstores or www.lulu.com.
One of the better-known tales centers on a man who was showing off for a girl at the Halona Blowhole and was blasted out to sea, where he drowned. His parents later sued the city and state for not posting sufficiently prominent warning signs, now in place. But as one authority remarked, "There will always be someone who ignores (them), hops over barriers, and disregards caution."
Case in point, a man who ventured too close to the edge of the Kilauea flow on the Big Island. When the lava bench he was standing on collapsed -- as it had been threatening to do, shaking, rumbling and exploding internally for at least an hour -- he fell into the boiling water and was killed.
What makes the man's behavior even more inexplicable is that he knew better. Not only was he a resident of Kealakekua who had often made his way over old lava flows, but he actually crossed a rope barrier and ignored posted danger notices. About a quarter-mile from the magma a series of tephra-jet explosions ("as if a bomb had just been dropped," writes Perkins) shook the ground. He still went on.
Perkins is generally kinder to Hawaii's victims than I might be, though even he calls one unnamed "comical visitor" a candidate for the Darwin Award. The man climbed into a steaming Kilauea caldera after his baseball hat fell 400 feet into it. He survived only because his clothes hooked onto a tree branch and rangers were able to haul him out.
"Surviving Paradise" is a chatty book full of stories like these. It is also well organized under a variety of headings -- deaths or injuries by drowning, volcanoes, surfing, helicopter crashes, flash floods, sharks, tsunamis and traffic. At the end of each section is a summary of advice, much of it blindingly obvious, e.g., don't swim in shark-infested water, especially if you're bleeding; adjust the rear-view mirrors of your rental car; and so forth. Apparently some people need to be told this -- and even then they don't listen.
A recent news item announced, "State Courts Visitors Seeking Outdoor Adventure." It might be a good idea if all takers were issued a copy of "Surviving Paradise." On the other hand, if people ignore well-posted warning signs and physical barriers, what good is a book likely to do?
is scholar in residence at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and adjunct professor of English at TransPacific Hawaii College. His latest book is "The Tragedy of Richard II, Part One: A Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare." E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org