November 18, 2016
Man Dissolves While Attempting To 'Hot Pot' In Yellowstone Hot Spring, Sister Captures Death On Phone

A 23-year-old Oregon man has dissolved in a Yellowstone hot spring after attempting to soak, or "hot pot" in the thermal pool. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Yellowstone National Park has reported that Colin Nathaniel Scott and his sister were searching for just the right spot to test the water and had wandered off the Norris Geyser Basin boardwalk, nearly 200 yards beyond the legal tourist area.

Although the National Park Service didn't officially list Colin Scott as attempting to act upon the prohibited practice of hot potting in the Yellowstone hot spring in their official report, Deputy Chief Ranger Lorant Veress has stated that it was clearly Scott's intention to act upon this desire that ultimately led to his death.

"They were specifically moving in that area for a place that they could potentially get into and soak. I think they call it Hot Potting. There's a closure in place to keep people from doing that for their own safety and also to protect the resources because they are very fragile. But, most importantly for the safety of people, because it's a very unforgiving environment."
While his sister was filming them walking in the restricted area towards the Norris Geyser, Colin Scott reached down with his hand in order to test the water's temperature of one of the Yellowstone hot springs, lost his footing and fell into the pool. His sister had been filming their journey and was still filming as her brother began disintegrating in the acidic water.

As soon as Colin's sister reported the fall, Yellowstone National Park rangers quickly made their way onto the scene, but it was evident from the moment they arrived that Scott was dead after seeing the "upper torso of a male victim floating face-up in a pool."

The temperature of the 10-foot pool was a very punishing 212 degrees Fahrenheit and the extreme heat and acidity of the hot spring would have caused a very quick death, along with "a very significant amount of dissolving" immediately upon falling in and the official cause of death was listed as "scalding due to submersion in thermal hot spring."

Norris Basin hot springs at Yellowstone National Park
Hot spring pools around Norris Basin, where Colin Scott and his sister were walking at Yellowstone National Park. [Image by ablokhin/Thinkstock Images]

Ranger Lorant Veress has once again stressed how important it is to follow the instructions on the signs posted around Yellowstone in order to avoid these sorts of very preventable accidents in the future.

"Because Yellowstone is wild and it hasn't been overly altered by people to make things a whole lot safer, it's got dangers. And a place like Yellowstone, which is set aside because of the incredible geothermal resources that are here, all the more so."
Incredible as it may sound, Scott is now the 22nd person on record to have perished while attempting to conquer nature at Yellowstone. Lee Whittlesee has said that death "is a frequent visitor in raw nature," while adding that Yellowstone Park, in spite of the cabins and roads, "is raw nature." No Native American deaths have been recorded at Yellowstone, and the first true scaldings began in the 1870s when visitors decided to explore this unknown region. Once this area was turned into a national park and more tourists arrived, the scaldings continued in earnest.

Geology professor Kenneth Sims has a name for the kind of people who feel they have nothing to fear with these Yellowstone hot springs. He calls them scofflaws.

"It's sort of dumb, if I could be so blunt, to walk off the boardwalks not knowing what you're doing, They're scofflaws essentially, who look around and then head off the boardwalk."
To illustrate just why it is so dangerous to ignore warning signs and walk through restricted areas, it is important to understand that the crust that forms the ground in these areas has been formed when minerals deep underground dissolve because of the high temperature of the water and these minerals are then deposited around the surface, which means that the crust you are walking on will be exceedingly thin and easy to break, similar to walking on the surface of very thin ice. Only in this case, when the ground breaks you fall into water that can easily be 199 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

While most deaths at Yellowstone have been accidents, two of them were actually attributed to people attempting to swim in the hot springs. And Colin Scott will now be the third person to have attempted this very unfortunate feat.

[Featured Image by Inger Eriksen/Thinkstock Images]