Survival Guide: Boiling Point
Art by Istvan Banyai
National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee
Expertise: Geothermal scientist
Yet we’d found the Shanaya, a name derived from “heated thing.” My measurements averaged 190°-195°F. The locals think it’s so hot because of the Yacumama, or “water mother”—a spirit who gives birth to waters—represented by a serpent-head-shaped rock at the origin of the heated water.
I had to cut my way through the brush at the side of the river to take temperature readings. All the while, right next to me was this very hot, fast-flowing body of water the width of a two-lane street. The shaman at the nearest village had told me, “Use your feet like eyes.” You can’t see heat, but you can feel it when you step near it. I wore sandals.
I was at a part of the river measuring 210°F, standing on a rock the size of a sheet of paper, when the rain turned on. It was like a curtain rising: The temperature differential between the rain and the river caused a whiteout. I couldn’t see, but I whistled to let my partner know I was OK.
At 130°F flesh cooks. My eyes would have cooked in less than a minute, and I couldn’t have seen how to get out. I’d seen rats and an opossum fall in, their eyes turning milky white. I kept whistling.
After 15 minutes the rain stopped and the steam cleared. A hard rain in most situations would have been inconsequential. Here, for a matter of minutes, it thinned the line between researching and being boiled alive.
—Andrés Ruzo, National Geographic Young Explorer grantee
Explore Photo Galleries
For 125 years, National Geographic has had a front-row seat at the global runway, documenting everything from sparklers to swimsuits.
Entertainment is becoming less physical and more virtual. Yet we still play physical games.
See how transportation has changed over 125 years.
See some of the most extreme examples of the effects of heat on our planet.
Humans have found ways to adapt to—and even enjoy—extreme temperatures.
In a world that seems like it is ever-changing, we still choose to move and express ourselves through dance.