Field Expeditions, Adventure & Risk


For all the fulfillment we get from our work in remote locations, and especially the wilderness work visits, we are, relatively speaking, conservative conservationists. After casually linking out to this article with references to expeditions, and hinting at our love of adventure, it occurs to me now to put it in perspective. What we do is not like what Roman Dial does. It is not like what Roman Dial Two did. I am sobered by Blair Braverman’s review of this memoir, written with respect as well as unflinching admiration:

His Son Hiked Into the Costa Rican Jungle, and Never Came Out. What Happened?


Ben Weissenbach

Years ago, I brought a city friend hiking. We had to cross a river of snowmelt on a cold, rainy day, and though the water normally stayed shallow, it was deeper and faster than I’d ever seen it. I crossed first, testing the depth; I showed my friend how to face upstream, how to unbuckle his pack and use a stick for support. He made his way after me, a wake rising around him, feeling with his boots for solid ground — and he stumbled. For a moment I saw it all play out: him swept away in the frigid water, the near-instant hypothermia, how I’d struggle to start a fire in the rain. And then he caught his footing and came to shore.

Everything’s fine, I told myself that night in my sleeping bag. It’s fine. Nothing bad happened.

Nothing bad happened, but it could have.

So much in the wilderness is beyond control. The storm comes or it doesn’t, the snake bites or it doesn’t, the mama bear charges or she turns away. You can do everything right and die. You can do it all wrong and survive. The questions of responsibility in the face of risk, of culpability, of the degree to which an outdoors person is responsible for things that went right or wrong by luck, all flow through “The Adventurer’s Son,” a new memoir by the famous explorer and field ecologist Roman Dial. Dial raised his son to be an explorer, too. And then his son disappeared.

So Dial went after him.

It’s the resulting search — for a body, for answers, for absolution — that forms the heart of the book. But its soul lies in the love that Dial has for his family and adventure both — the love that drove him to combine them…

Read the whole review here.

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