My late husband remarked, already decades ago, that you can no longer write satire as humanity satirizes itself. Still, the temptation remains to comment on our increasingly degenerate and chaotic culture in that particular form, and though nothing could top the truth of Pendery Weekes’ article on embryo jewellery I cannot resist adding some persiflage on our modern taste for the morbid. This internet ad, unlike the embryo jewels, is not yet real – but I suspect it soon will be.

Disaster tourism at Mount Merapi, after the 2010 eruptions

We are the only tour company devoted exclusively to disaster tourism of the uncommon variety.

Disaster tourism is now mainstream. We, like you, the seasoned and discerning traveller, are bored by the mainstream. We know you want something special. We know you want something more.
You may have been to Chernobyl, Auschwitz, etc. and of course Pompeii, a favourite location centuries ago, long before disaster tourism was even recognised, and always part of everyone’s Italian trip. We know that once you have exhausted the usual itineraries and developed your taste for this most exciting form of travel you will want to get to places that are not mentioned in all the history books. You will crave something extra. You will demand pictures that are not on everybody else’s smartphones.
And that’s what only we can provide.
We have a superb research team who find not only what’s been lost in the ancient chronicles but something even better – more contemporary disasters that authorities wanted to play down or cover up, to get out of the papers or off the internet as quickly as they could.
Everyone’s been to Montségur, where the last Albigensians were burnt alive – everyone knows about the French Revolution’s Terror, the guillotine and the huge numbers of bloody heads that rolled down into baskets while ‘les Tricoteuses’, the women in the audience, watched, cheered and knitted. But how many people know about the rebellion against the brutal new Republic, the rebellion of the Royalist and Catholic region of Vendée? When the rebellion was finally put down, after atrocities on both sides, thousands were massacred, in what Reynald Secher, the prominent historian, called a French genocide.
We take you to the Vendée.
Only a score of years ago a Greek ferry, whose crew were all watching a football game, sailed head-on into a rock – the one and only obstacle in a huge empty bay. Not every shipwreck is a Titanic, but still, the drowning of two hundred people is not a mean total. The news went as quickly as it appeared, but not for us.
We take you to that rock.
Everyone’s been to Rwanda and Cambodia – we can take you to other killing fields that governments hoped would never be marked as such, to the sites of atrocities whose perpetrators will never be tried.
Everyone you know has probably been whale-watching – but how many of your ‘green’ friends, now switching to jute shopping bags and paper straws, have actually cruised among those giant islands of plastic floating in the Pacific and been able to snap them from the prow of a ship?
You can be the first.
The beauty of some of the landscapes we take you to is just an added bonus, but we know that beauty is not the object of your holiday and you will get your fill of industrial wasteland, ghost towns, bomb sites, abandoned shafts where hundreds of miners died.
We need hardly mention that you will stay in only the best hotels and eat in excellent restaurants, and on any excursion far from food outlets you’ll be provided with a splendid picnic lunch of your choice.
When our tours involve camping, as do some for the hardier traveller, we offer luxurious tents and an elaborate camp cuisine.
Best of all, whatever tour you choose, we never give you a whole itinerary in advance. We aim always to provide at least one surprise, a recent discovery that your group may be the first to share.
For the fit and really enterprising traveller, or one with a streak of Sherlock Holmes, we now have something more incredible yet.
You or your friends may have been on a volunteer holiday, counted birds from an endangered species on a Hebridean island, participated in an archaeological dig or even, closer to home, ladled out soup at Christmas for the homeless. Well, we too now have a volunteer holiday programme. You can help register buildings condemned after an earthquake, look for bodies buried in an avalanche, chart the route followed by a serial killer, or even, if that is your preference, hunt for the grave of a murder victim when the police have given up.
We should add that this is done with the agreement of local authorities, who usually welcome the funds our presence brings to local businesses. The unfortunate incident when after last year’s major radioactive spill some of our group, indistinguishable from the professionals because of the excellent protective gear we provide, got in the way of scientists and surveyors, will not be repeated. The courier for that particular group has now been dismissed, and the case has been happily settled out of court. As for the other unfortunate incident, when one of our tourists was buried in a recurrence of a mudslide he was photographing, that courier has also been dismissed. We have always stressed that the volunteer’s tours are only for the really fit and no one under the age of eighteen is permitted to join them.
So – fit or unfit, daring or timid, even if you’re visually impaired or in a wheelchair, we have a tour for you.
So don’t hesitate.
Contact us today.

Frances Oliver

Volume 34 no.2 November/December 2019 pp 32-33

1 thought on “EXCLUSIVE DISASTERS – A Website

  1. Obviously we are titillated with our disasters. They activate the tinge of mortality, which becomes full strength upon it’s actualization when we die, but for now, as alive, we are teased by it. It commonly shares our destiny no matter how hard we try to deny it and no matter how we try to put it off… and it is constantly all around us, just look over your left shoulder…it is there. Taking a disaster tour, in a sense, puts the “tinge” a manageable distance between our knowledge of death and it’s actuality. It is still within range of fascination and power over our life on Earth and who we are. And it is exactly that tinge that is cultivated when we spy into other people’s misfortune and untimely death…. we are glad it is them. Of course the latest example of this cultivation of titillation can be easily shared when one signs up for a bus tour of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. A regular tour now along with other bus tours of the fabled city, the Ninth ward destroyed in the Katrina hurricane flooding is a grisly reminder of what Mother Nature may do if we are so unlucky… that part of the city is a wreck, shambles, the home of unconscionable pain and far from repair. A dead/living testament to our approach to people when they are unlucky alive and poor… they are out of luck. So much of New Orleans is about living, enjoying life, food, music, putting death off. We in turn, as we watch a New Orleans funeral parade are once again reminded that life is for the living and we will send you out ok… but that is for only so long and the clock is ticking. As maudlin as it may be to take a disaster tour and so very human, I think what Francis may be suggesting is perhaps we may wish to look deeper into our motivation for taking such tours and yes, perhaps turn toward our living lives and each other as opposed to a lot unfortunate souls with very little tale to tell. For the most part, in all due respect for my fellow souls who keep telling their story at Pompeii or Hiroshima…perhaps we have yet to hear the tales of certain souls.

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