Friday, May 27, 2016

Interesting characterization of wilderness as "impermeable"

Today's New York Times features the story of the death three years ago of a 66-year-old hiker on the Appalachian Trail.  Geraldine Largay wandered off the trail at around the New Hampshire/Maine state line.  In spite of a massive search effort at the time, she was not found until last year.  Based on her journal entries, she is thought to have survived about a month before succumbing to exposure and lack of nutrition.

One thing I find interesting about this story--and the primary reason I am writing about it here--is the characterization of the terrain where she was lost:
...vanished in late July 2013, the authorities sent helicopters, horses and up to 130 searchers to comb dozens of miles of briary, thick woods. The search was intense but fruitless, and rescue efforts were scaled back in early August. It baffled the Maine Warden Service, an agency that knew the woods and was experienced in finding people who were lost.
* * *
Rescuers have said they believe they came maddeningly close to Ms. Largay — perhaps as near as 100 yards — but, in Maine’s impermeable forests, even that distance might as well be miles away. 
* * *  
Ms. Largay’s remains were found last October, about 3,000 yards away from the trail, in a private area the military uses for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.
What is interesting to me is how the woods--wilderness--could obscure Ms. Largay from those seeking to rescue her--even when they were as close to her as from one end of a football field to the other.

I have argued in academic settings that rural spatiality--including wilderness and its component parts, e.g., trees and shrubs, obscure and conceal, impeding the efforts of law enforcement and rendering people in these settings vulnerable.  Yet this is a topic on which I get a great deal of "pushback" from other academics, who seem unable to understand this concept, or to acknowledge that technology (and essentially "time"/progress) cannot always trump spatiality.  Here is another example of law/the state's failure in that regard, even when the search covered a relatively small area.

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