Scientific researchers often put themselves into harm’s way in the name of discovery. Sometime the danger is really obvious, as it was for volcanologist Frank Perret, who in 1929 found himself in the path of a deadly pyroclastic flow.
Even seemingly innocuous fields of study can thrust a researcher into danger, however. In a terrifying and fascinating story in The Guardian, taxonomist Kipling Will describes how the appearance of a beetle in unexpected circumstances foreshadowed a fight for his life on an outing:
The only time where it’s felt like I’ve been in any serious jeopardy was in New Caledonia, an island in the southwestern Pacific. I was there for an expedition with some colleagues, and so far it’d been a pretty wet trip. I’d done a hike one day up to a site and found some undescribed species, so I wanted some more specimens. I headed back another day to same place, hiking the 700 metres elevation. About halfway up the trail, I saw this beetle walking down the path. I looked at it and thought: “Hey, that’s interesting, they’re not usually out during the day”. But I thought not much more of it and went on my merry way, crossing a small stream on my way up.
Follow the link to get the whole story. The story also highlights how seemingly obscure scientific knowledge can be a lifesaver — if one actually pays attention to the signs in front of oneself.