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Death in Yellowstone by Lee Whittlesey
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Death in Yellowstone (1995)

by Lee Whittlesey

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2401948,049 (3.88)10
Recently added bydsdumpling, taisiia, editfish, TommyB, BellaFoxx, private library, lunatrix29, briannad84, cmc25
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  1. 00
    Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite by Michael P. Ghiglieri (prosfilaes)
    prosfilaes: Similar, but with better writing.
  2. 00
    Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Thomas M. Myers (infiniteletters, Helcura)
    Helcura: In the same vein, but much more engagingly written.
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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I purchased the first edition of this book while exploring Yellowstone in 2001 and I'm thrilled to see the updated version.

This is a glorious (if a little macabre) fact-filled book split into sections detailing the history of deaths in Yellowstone National Park. Anyone who has been there knows that the caretakers of this park have done an exemplary job keeping it as pristine and as natural as possible and unfortunately many park visitors don't keep that in mind.

With this update the author has clarified some details from the earlier version and also added new 'older' deaths and modern ones. His tone is respectful throughout while sneaking in a few scoldings to those who may make some silly decisions in the future.

Yellowstone is a glorious visit in both summer and winter but do not take the park for granted. Don't dive into any hot springs, don't tease the bison, and don't swim alone. Unless of course you want to end up in the 3rd Edition... ( )
  taisiia | Aug 16, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Death in Yellowstone" is not really about lurid encounters resulting in gory deaths. Rather, it is an extremely well researched and documented history of fatalities in the Park since it was created in 1872. "Death in Yellowstone" has 284 pages of text; a 7-page chronology; 3 appendices detailing grave sites and cemeteries; 52 pages of notes; a 15-page bibliography; and a 29-page index. This is a serious history that would interest readers of the work of Aubrey Haines, previous park historian and ranger.

This is a revised second edition of the original published in 1995. Author Lee Whittlesey not only updated the accounts of deaths but discovered some early deaths that he had overlooked. The 25 chapters cover all facets of death. Whittlesey is the current Park historian who has spent 35 years studying the Yellowstone area and has authored more than 10 books and 25 articles on his research.

Deaths caused by nature include thermal features; freezing; poisonous plants; falling rocks; earthquakes, and lightening. Deaths caused by humans include suicides; shootings; fights; and crashes involving cars, airplanes, horses, wagons and stagecoaches. ( )
  TommyB | Jul 4, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Wilderness is impersonal. It does not care whether you live or die. It does not care how much you love it.

So while we are loving the Yellowstone wilderness, while we play in it, indeed revel in it, taking it on its own terms and helping to protect it, we foolish mortals must always remember to respect it. For not only can it bite us, but, indeed, it can devour us.


While reading this my first thought was he could have just subtitled it, "People are stupid". Indeed, most of the deaths in this book are the direct result of people being "foolhardy". There are a few genuine accidents and some deaths by others actions, negligent acts and even homicides. Lee Whittlesey covers them all. What is not included in this book are deaths from auto, motorcycle, or snowmobile wrecks or deaths from heart attacks or illness.

The book is divided into two sections: Death by Nature which covers hot springs, wild animals, poisonous plants and gas, lightning, falling rocks and trees (although these could also be in next section), avalanche, freezing, cave-in, falls, smoke, earthquakes, and drowning. Part II is Death by Man which covers Indian battles, fights, horse and wagon and stagecoach incidents, accidental and deliberate shootings, murder, suicide, missing and presumed dead, gas stove explosions, structural fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, death on road (bus accidents) and airplane crashes (military and private planes).

While this could have been a dry recitation of names and manor of death, Lee Whittlesey has provided a narrative with the deaths, how it happened and how he came by the information. He also gives a little bit of the history of his life and also why he wrote the book. This is actually the second edition, the first being published in 1995, and has more deaths. Some are older ones, the information sent to him by people who know about them. Some are deaths that occurred between 1995 and the publishing of this book.

While this is not an exciting, page turning book, I found it to be very interesting and informative. It made me glad that my parents were of the mindset that when in Yellowstone National Park, you obeyed the rules the Rangers stated because, "The rules are there for a reason!", and we left Yellowstone the same way we came in, with our limbs and lives intact. I did try to get a bear to eat my sister, but as is brought out in this book, they are wild animals and uncooperative.

The book ends with Whittlesey reinforcing the safety rules we should all follow because wilderness is after all wild and can devour us. A word of caution from me, while not gory, some of the descriptions of injuries in this book are graphic, for instance, he describes what happens to the human body when immersed in boiling hot water. ( )
  BellaFoxx | May 29, 2014 |
"Death in Yellowstone" is not really about lurid encounters resulting in gory deaths. Rather, it is an extremely well researched and documented history of fatalities in the Park since it was created in 1872. "Death in Yellowstone" has 284 pages of text; a 7-page chronology; 3 appendices detailing grave sites and cemeteries; 52 pages of notes; a 15-page bibliography; and a 29-page index. This is a serious history that would interest readers of Aubrey Haines’, previous park historian and ranger.

This is a revised second edition of the original published in 1995. Author Lee Whittlesey not only updated the accounts of deaths but discovered some early deaths that he had overlooked. The 25 chapters cover all facets of death. Whittlesey is the current Park historian who has spent 35 years studying the Yellowstone area and has authored more than 10 books and 25 articles on his research.

Deaths caused by nature include thermal features; freezing; poisonous plants; falling rocks; earthquakes, and lightening. Deaths caused by humans include suicides; shootings; fights; and crashes involving cars, airplanes, horses, wagons and stagecoaches.

Whittlesey has an underlying theme of balancing risk, liability and preservation of nature in the park. Families of victims have sued the Park and demanded additional safety measures, such as fencing each of 10,000 thermal features: geysers, mud pots, fumaroles and hot springs. This demand disregards the remoteness of the features or the fact that some are in prohibited areas. The litigation also disregards the culpability, recklessness and responsibility of the victim or the victim’s parents.

Obviously, the Park has a responsibility to provide a degree of warning and protection for visitors. However, there is also an obligation of the Park to preserve the natural condition of the Park for visitors to experience and enjoy. Accordingly, visitors are responsible for heeding the warnings and alerts that the Park provides and using a reasonable degree of caution when touring the Park. An example of blatant disregard of this obligation is the risk undertaken by parents who place their young child on the back of a bison for a photograph. Bisons or buffalo are not big, dumb, fuzzy, harmless animals, but 2,000 pounds of unpredictable, sometimes belligerent, animals with lethal horns. In these cases, it is often impossible to protect people from their own foolishness.

Note: this paperback has a sturdy, glossy cover and back and is well-printed on quality paper. In my view, these assets contribute to enjoyable reading. ( )
  brendajanefrank | May 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had the first edition on my wishlist for several years and was happy when I was awarded the second edition from the ER program. This book is covers the deaths, excluding car accidents and illness, that have occured in or very close to Yellowstone park since 1839. It is surprising the numbers of ways people have died, plane crashes, mauling by bears and bison, drowning, fights, freezing, lightening strikes, murders, boiling etc.
The common theme through most of this book is listen to the warnings! Do not treat the wilderness as a trip through the back yard. People die because they climb over barriers to get closer to animals or to get that picture of a lifetime. They die because they want to see how hot the hot springs are.
This book has a lot of info, some of it dry and some not. It is an interesting book but not one that you can read quickly. ( )
  cal8769 | Apr 11, 2014 |
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It is a mystery why anyone would dive head first into a Yellowstone hot spring merely to save a dog, but that is precisely what happened on July 20, 1981.
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Yellowstone National Park has a long history of deaths by everything from earthquakes to bear attacks, poison gas, and lightning. Since 1870 there have been 300 deaths, all brought together in this fascinating book by a long-time chronicler of Yellowstone's history.… (more)

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