The Darwin Awards

2005 Darwin Awards

Next Prev Random Honoring Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool--by removing themselves from it.

Death Valley Daze
2005 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin

(27 July 2005, California) Robert, 35, was eager to hang out with the nudists at the Palm Springs campground, in a part of Death Valley where temperatures reached 136 degrees. The track was rough but passable until he was lured into the Saline Mud Flats by the deceptively dry appearance of its crackled surface, radiating heat in the baking sun. Within a few feet, the wheels of his VW microbus sunk deep into the muck that lay hidden beneath the crust.

Robert was miles from nowhere, surrounded by the bleached skulls of other animals that had become trapped in the mire. But he had plenty of water, so he waited for help to find him on the remote dirt track. After six days, he abandoned the microbus and began walking to a less deserted location where someone was more likely to pass.

Luck was with him! As he was shaking the last drop of water from his bottle, help arrived in the form of 14-year-old British lads from the League of Venturers, who were training in search-and-rescue techniques. "He was crying and completely hysterical. I don't think he expected to last the day," said the unit leader. They gave him a lift to the nearest ranger station, 80 miles away, where he kissed the ground in gratitude.

Robert had cheated death once, but that didn't stop him from tempting fate again.

In nearby Bishop, he found someone to tow the microbus out of the mudflats. Alas, it had two flat tires and other mechanical problems, so he returned to Bishop for automotive supplies. He snagged another ride into Death Valley, this time with a couple who took an unfamiliar route from the north, and dropped him off at a washout in the road about 15 miles from the Palm Springs campground.

His plan was to locate the campground and enlist help fixing his vehicle. He stashed his supplies and began walking. His body was found three days later, without a map, a GPS, or even water. Authorities estimated that he had walked along the road for 10 miles before heading into the open desert, seeking water.

Reader Comments:
"The desert does strange things to people."
"Gotta love the tree-huggers, and I can say that cause I am one."

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Submitted by: Karl Cleife
Reference: Southampton Echo, UK; Daily Record, Glasgow, UK; www.death-valley.us/article1353.html; Daily Mirror, KCBS

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