The Instagram Spot So Dangerous, It Needs An Online Warning System
One of Australia's most iconic but dangerous tourist spots has been issued a new warning system as summer heats up.
The Figure Eight pools in Sydney's Royal National Park might be a popular spot to snap an Instagram pic, but they're also notoriously dangerous.
More than 100 people were injured, three seriously, when a large wave crashed over the rock shelf in 2016, and a year later, a 22-year-old tourist was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after suffering a fall.
An online warning system has now been launched, alerting would-be visitors to the dangerous weather conditions at any given time.
Similar to bushfire warning systems, it offers five stages of danger, from 'very low' to 'extreme', with reports available for every daylight hour up to four days in advance.
During times of 'extreme' risk, it warns that not only are the pools underwater, but that visiting the pools is impossible due to waves washing over the surrounding tracks.
"If you're in the rock pools you'll be trapped and thrown against the rocks, before being washed out of the pools and dragged across the rock shelf," the website says.
"Do not visit."
The New South Wales government is hoping it will communicate the very real dangers of the picturesque spot.
"Many victims have been injured in the rock pools by large waves crashing over the platform, which is only accessibly at low tide," Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.
"It is in your interest to check out the risk rating when planning your trip and again just before you depart. Be prepared to cancel your trip if the risk is high or extreme."
A number of hazardous rescues have been conducted where tourists have either been trapped by the tides or gone onto the rock platform in unsafe conditions, said Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant, putting both the visitors and their rescuers in danger.
“Emergency Services often have to rescue people in hazardous conditions that, tragically, could have been avoided,” Grant said.
“Anyone intending to visit the site will be doing the community and themselves a huge favour if they check the risk rating tool first and make their plans based on its rating so they can stay safe."
The warning system is the first of its kind, using a nearshore wave buoy and land-based cameras to analyse waves washing across the platform.
Developed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the University of Newcastle, it's an extra safety measure in addition to the warning signs on the sometimes treacherous two-hour walking track and daily safety alerts.
Dangerous Tourist Spots Around Australia
The Figure Eight pools are far from the only notoriously dangerous tourist spot in Australia.
Wedding Cake Rock, also in the Royal National Park, has a "very high risk" of collapsing, with one tourist dying after falling off the rock in 2014.
Safety measures include a 1.6-metre high fence and threats of $3300 fines, but haven't stopped people from climbing over in order to get the perfect picture. The National Parks and Wildlife Service admitted defeat just this week, announcing it will be building an even bigger fence.
Kariniji National Park in Western Australia is famous for its gorges and lush swimming spots, but a number of deaths and injuries has prompted parts of the park to be restricted to tours only.
Even in the unrestricted areas, signs warn visitors that people have died in those areas -- including the tragic case of Chris Majewski in 2011, who slipped and fell 14-metres while trying to save his seven-year-old son. The incident occurred just days after the Department of Environment and Conservation revealed eight visitors had died in a 12-month period from 2010-2011.
Although visitors are asked not to climb Uluru in the Northern Territory due to its status as a sacred site, the climb has claimed 37 lives since the 1950s, when record keeping began.
The most recent death was that of a 76-year-old Japanese tourist in July this year, who collapsed and lost consciousness while attempting to ascend the steepest part of the climb.
On a broader scale, Australia's beaches might be a huge draw-card for international tourists, but migrants and tourists account for about one third of drowning deaths in Australia each year.
And internationally, 259 people died while trying to take a selfie in risky circumstances between October 2001 and November 2017, according to a landmark study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.
Drowning was the leading cause of death, but it was followed by transport-related deaths and falling from precarious spots.
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