During a fieldcourse you are leading a day which requires a group of thirty students to traverse a ten kilometres stretch of coastline, including cliff paths, beaches and scrambling over clay slopes and some rocky outcrops. This is in a remote area, and the group is dropped off by coach in the morning, and picked up at the other end of the traverse in the evening. One other member of staff and a demonstrator accompany the party. You have checked carefully, and no students in this group have declared any mobility problems on the form which they have to complete before the fieldcourse.
Before lunch time, three students are clearly suffering from dehydration and gastric disorders (possibly self-inflicted the previous evening in the bar and nearby curry house) and you send them off under the escort of your colleague to the nearest bus route and hence back to the hotel. Shortly after lunch, when the route gets to the cliffed section of the coast, three students state that they cannot go any further. They had not realised that the day involved walking along a cliff path with a vertical drop below, and they suffer from vertigo. Your demonstrator escorts them from the coast to the evening pick-up point, via an inland route. You are left with twenty-five students. In mid-afternoon, halfway up a steep clay slope, a mature student named Maria sits down in tears, saying she cannot go any further. She has been determined to join in the fieldcourse to the full, but a combination of extreme obesity, lack of fitness and heavy smoking means she has limited strength in her legs, and just cannot make it up the slope. She is sobbing uncontrollably, gasping for breath, and becoming hysterical. She cannot go on. You realise that because the tide has come in, the party cannot go back...
What do you do now?
What might you have done to try to avoid this situation developing?
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 114 6