Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves


with 4 comments

Rattle Snake

This is a rattlesnake. “Look out! This week’s challenge is about the unexpected thrill of danger.” So yes the sight of this beautiful creature was indeed unexpected and did carry a thrill. But actually not dangerous really, as long as you don’t do something really stupid. Like pick up a short stick and poke it. Or stray off the path and walk in the long grass. Treading on a rattlesnake is not going to bring you anything but grief.

We did show the picture to a park ranger and she confirmed that this was a rattlesnake. The location was Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, and of course the park warns people about the dangers of the wildlife in the park.

Actually the humans are the real danger. So please indulge me a little and read some more. Because the following was neither unexpected nor a thrill. But no-one got hurt either.

This is a picture of some people enjoying the surf on the beach at Varadero, Cuba.

Playing in the breakers probably seemed like fun. What these people had not seen – or not understood – was this red flag.


Yes, well, that seems understandable. It is not a large flag, nor is it immediately obvious that it is meant to be a warning. And, yes there was a lifeguard.


He did blow his whistle and wave at them. But you will also note that when they looked back at the guy whistling at them he seemed to be wearing a plain white T shirt. He also did nothing more than that. When they did not respond to him, he simply went on his way.
I happened to be walking on the beach (fully dressed and shod) and I noticed all of this and decided to do something. I did not, of course, have a whistle, and I did not know if these people actually spoke English, so I tried yelling “Attention” (in a French accent) and making a clear arm length gesture beckoning them closer. I established that two of them did speak English and they did understand when I said “Come closer please, I need to tell you something.” (There were a lot of people from Quebec in our resort, but also lots of Europeans.)

When they got closer I asked them if they understood the term “undertow“.  They thought it meant “current”.

The beach has a steep slope. The strong winds, that had been blowing even stronger the previous night, were pushing water up this slope, but gravity was pulling an equal amount back – and that could only travel under the waves. Anyone losing their footing in the soft, waterlogged sand would find their foot, leg and then themselves, dragged by this flow, under the waves. They had not understood the little red flag – not even noticed it – or understood why the guy was whistling at them. The other couple they did not know, but they noticed me, and came in too. I went through the same routine.

There was no-one else paddling. I felt suddenly very tired. I told the second couple that if they had been knocked over by a wave I would not have gone in after them. I also told them about the search we had seen conducted a couple of days earlier on the same beach. Uniformed Coast Guards, a motor boat and guys in wet suits looking for someone. Not asylum seekers, as I had presumed at the time, but someone who had also ignored the red flag. I never heard if they recovered the body.

So the people in the first picture were in real danger, and blithely unaware of it.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 3, 2017 at 11:35 am

Posted in photography

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] Stephen Rees’s blogDanger! […]

  2. Good for you. You probably saved at least one life that day.


    May 4, 2017 at 7:35 am

  3. Possibly. But what I like to think is that I managed to get four people out of harm’s way.

    Stephen Rees

    May 4, 2017 at 10:46 am

  4. Snakes are surprisingly dangerous! It’s good you’ve seen it before it saw you first.

    Anna Love

    May 10, 2017 at 1:32 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: