From king crab fishermen in sturdy fishing boots who work the Bering Sea, to astronauts making boot prints on the moon. Courageous men and women have boldly set foot in places deemed too frightening by many.
Here we celebrate those brave, boot clad heroes who venture forth so that we don’t have to…
Fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs on earth, and the fishing boots of the Alaskan King Crab fishing folk are the most dangerous to fill. At least 75 percent more hazardous than any other occupation.
King Crab fishing in the Bering Sea claims on average one life a week during the short fishing season. While boats only fish for between two and four weeks a year, long hours, freezing temperatures and ferocious storms make working with heavy traps and machinery extremely dangerous.
Virtually every kid has bounced about in moon boots, pretending to be an astronaut. However, in reality this otherworldly occupation is fraught with danger. Several tragedies have occurred whilst attempting to break the bonds of earth. The most tragic space disaster must surely have been the failed Challenger mission.
In full view of well wishers the craft disintegrated shortly after takeoff killing all seven astronauts. In 2003, the space shuttle Columbia fragmented over Southwestern United States. Damage to the heat proofing led to the break up of the craft, and the deaths of all those aboard.
Climbing shoes should not be pulled on lightly, as mountaineering is evidently a dangerous occupation. Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay first climbed Everest in 1953, there has been one death for every ten successful climbs on average.
While there have been major steps forward in the development of climbing clothing and equipment, human ability to function at over 8000 metres remains the same – which is to say, not very good. The safe rate of progress towards the summit is a mere 100 metres every one and a half hours. Patience and reason are essential for survival.
A successful sailor’s deck shoes often prove an enviable place to be. But pity the crew of the whale ship Essex whose ship was sunk in 1820 by a sperm whale, some 2000 miles west of South America. The surviving sailors crammed aboard three small whaleboats and set out to find land. They could have sailed west to the Marquesas, but scared of the cannibals who lived there, they opted instead to head for South America.
When the boat under the charge of captain Pollard ran out of food, the occupants drew lots to see who would be sacrificed for the good of the others. The captain’s own cousin drew the short straw and when Pollard offered to protect him, he is said to have lain his head upon the gunwale and uttered the words, ‘No, I like my lot as well as any other’. Pollard was finally rescued 95 days after the sinking of his ship.
Men and women in modern military boots are highly likely to see front line action. Fortunately the armed forces do a lot more to minimise casualties than they used to. When the light brigade charged at Russian lines at the battle of Balaclava in 1854, 673 cavalrymen under the command of Lord Cardigan galloped into a hail of bullets, grapeshot and artillery fire.
The British suffered 278 killed or wounded and 60 were taken prisoner. Fleeing these heroes of the Crimean war, Cardigan boarded his yacht in Balaclava harbour and enjoyed a champagne dinner.
Modern TV explorers bring us thrills and spills from the wilderness, but to find the real heroes of exploration you need to travel back in time. Take Major Bill Tilman; born in 1898, he received two military crosses for bravery during the First World War, became a coffee grower in Kenya, climbed mount Kilimanjaro, spent the 1930s exploring the Himilayas and took part in two Everest expeditions.
When the Second World War broke out, he saw action in North Africa and at Dunkirk, and then parachuted in behind enemy lines to assist Albanian and Italian partisans. After the war he took up deep sea sailing, and ventured to both the Arctic and Antarctic in search of remote unclimbed mountains. Tilman never retired, he eventually perished at the ripe old age of 80, when his boat foundered somewhere off the Falklands. They don’t make them like that any more.