Along with the foolhardy who either fail to appreciate the lunar influence on our seas or believe that the laws of physics apply only to other people, the rescue services are frequently called upon to assist the hubristic unwary who think they can walk on water - or rather, water-saturated mud.
Those members of my family who grew up within spitting distance of the Sands of Dee were, to a man (and woman) reared on the poetic fate of Mary, who chose the wrong time to fetch the cattle home across the estuary and thereby met an untimely and soggy end. Such cautionary tales have, for countless generations, been used to teach impressionable youngsters the dangers of coastal mud and a rising tide.
Now, however, with schools more likely to teach the exploits of Anancy the Spider or Rama and Sita than the sad story of Mary and her cows (or the local equivalent), and with easy travel bringing droves of unwary landlubbers to the seaside, the rescue services have their work cut out.
This weekend brought a particularly up-to-date version of the problem, thanks to a mobile-phone based craze doubtless conceived by urban technophiles who don't see much of Mother Nature in the raw, so to speak:
The coastguard had to be called out after 15 people got stuck in mud while taking part in a hi-tech seaside treasure hunt.Someone appears to have had the bright idea of hiding the 'treasure' near the low water mark during a spring tide on a stretch of coastline notorious for quicksand. According to the coastguard Operations Officer:
"We have since discovered that they were undertaking the hobby of geocaching. This was in an extremely dangerous place and we would not encourage others to search in these areas because there are complex tidal patterns and deep mud."Geocaching is, as I understand it, running around with a GPS-enabled smartphone looking for clues; self-preservation, it seems, is optional. The impressive cast required to fish this lot out, credited in full in the Telegraph, consisted of:
Clevedon Lifeboat, the coastguard helicopter from Portland, a search and rescue helicopter from RAF Chivenor, the Portishead RNLI inshore lifeboat, teams from the Weston-super-Mare and Portishead Coastguard Rescue and the Somerset Fire and Rescue Firefly Hovercraft.Along with one for the ultimate selfie fail, it's probably about time they set up a special Darwin Award category for those who, abandoning all common sense, blithely follow their own pocket-sized Pied Piper into oblivion.