Curious Tourists Visiting Dangerous Asbestos Site
Wittenoom, Australia has been wiped off the map…literally. Australian cartographers don’t even place the Western Australian town on modern maps anymore as it’s no longer a municipality, and it doesn’t show up on some GPS maps either.
That’s because the town was long ago obliterated by decades of blue asbestos mining…and officials in Australia would rather people just ignore the fact that the remains of the town still sit there, looking like a Wild West ghost town.
But some people aren’t heeding the warnings, government officials say.
Located about 700 miles north of the city of Perth, Wittenoom has been described as “the greatest occupational health and safety tragedy in Australia,” often compared to Chernobyl in Russia or Bhopal in India.
Literally thousands of the town’s former residents (and frequent visitors) have died of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
It’s common knowledge that living or working there was a death sentence.
Yet some curious visitors still make their way there to examine what remains. The government knows this is happening due to the number of videos and blogs about Wittenoom appearing on the Internet.
It’s easy to avoid Wittenoom but tourists – even local ones – often stop on their way to Karijini National Park, a popular attraction known for its natural beauty including stunning waterfalls and gorges. Karijini is one of Western Australia’s most beloved spots.
Ashely White, a young Western Australian, recently made that stop in Wittenoom while traveling with his girlfriend. Though White told the BBC in a recent interview that he was familiar with the plight of the town, he didn’t think “a short visit” would be a problem.
“From what I could find, it is the fibres in the air that cause the problems,” he said. “There was no wind when we went so I was under the impression that a short visit won’t hurt,” he added, after exploring the town’s decrepit buildings and even making his way to one of the old mine shafts.
Though he read all the warning signs, White added that he liked looking around abandoned places and truly was “not bothered” by the safety risk. His girlfriend, on the other hand, thought better of exploring Wittenoom and refused to enter the town.
The BBC reports that many travelers appear to have the same outlook as White, and they write about the town in blogs and even go as far as to make videos of their treks through the still-contaminated mine shafts. Some of the “tours” appear to be led by a local.
Some viewers of the videos congratulate the (mostly) men for their bravado while others question their sanity.
“I know it’s personal choice but what a price to pay,” reads one comment.
In the meantime, the government will keep trying to dissuade people from entering the town by extending its campaign and placing more warning signs that read: STAY SAFE! DO NOT TRAVEL TO WITTENOOM.