Dire Consequences

The ten worst adventure disasters of the past 200 years

Oct 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Galeras stratovolcano

Galeras stratovolcano    Photo: Josecamilom

1. 1815 Captain James Riley runs aground off North Africa, where he and his 11-man crew are enslaved by the Sahrawi tribe and marched 800 miles through the Sahara. Seven survive.
Further Reading: Skeletons on the Zahara (2004), by Dean King.

2. 1845 Sir John Franklin and 128 men sail off to find the Northwest Passage. Trapped in sea ice for 18 months, the entire crew eventually perishes.
Further Reading: Ice Blink (2000), by Scott Cookman.

3. 1911 In a race to reach the South Pole first, Captain Robert Falcon Scott treks across Antarctica with four men, arriving only to find another team has beaten them by a month. Scott and his two remaining men die just 11 miles from their base camp.
Further Reading: The Worst Journey in the World (1922), by Apsley Cherry-Garrard.

4. 1925 Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett and two others vanish into the Amazon forest while searching for a lost city in Brazil; 100 people die in the decades-long effort to find them.
Further Reading: Exploration Fawcett (1953), by P. H. Fawcett et al.

5. 1979 The 303 yachts in the 600-mile British Fastnet Race are struck by a massive storm in the Celtic Sea. Five sink, 24 crews abandon ship, 136 sailors are rescued, and 15 people die.
Further Reading: Fastnet, Force 10 (1980), by John Rousmaniere.

6. 1981 Ten clients of outfitter RMI, along with one guide, are killed by an avalanche on Mount Rainier's Ingraham Glacier.
Further Reading: The Measure of a Mountain (1997), by Bruce Barcott.

7. 1990 A slide on 23,405-foot Lenin Peak, on the border of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, kills at least 40 climbers.
Further Reading: Mountain Disasters (2003), edited by Hamish MacInnes.

8. 1993 Professor Stanley Williams guides a team of 12 international researchers to the rim of Colombia's 14,029-foot-tall Galeras volcano, which erupts, killing six of the scientists and three tourists.
Further Reading: Surviving Galeras (2001), by Stanley Williams and Fen Montaigne.

9. 1996 Eight climbers descending from the summit of Everest are killed by a brutal storm.
Further Reading: Into Thin Air (1997), by Jon Krakauer.

10. 1999 A flash flood in Saxeten Canyon, near Interlaken, Switzerland, kills three guides and 18 clients.
Further Reading: "A Storm in the Distance," by Mark Jenkins

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Open a World of Adventure

Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.

Thank you!