The Phoblographer writer Julius Motal asked me a few months back to tell him about a scary moment in the field while working on my National Geographic Young Explorer Grant projects in the Balkans and the Caucasus. I thought there was one important and not so obvious lesson worth sharing from my experiences:
“Don’t trust Google Maps in conflict or post-conflict zones as the roads may be mined,” said photojournalist Amanda Rivkin who worked on two projects in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus with National Geographic Young Explorers Grants from the Expeditions Council.
Unless the area has been substantially surveyed, it can almost be impossible to know where landmines are. Landmine accidents are an uncomfortably common occurrence, particularly in post-conflict zones. In some places, landmines aren’t discovered until they’ve gone off. In others, they’re well documented like in the Falkland islands where there are cordoned-off no-go zones. Penguins there have, however, capitalized on them because they’re light enough to not set them off. People, however, are not so fortunate. When data or a “Beware Mines” sign isn’t available, your best bet is to talk to people.
“Talk to trustworthy locals and garner opinions that warrant merit. Sometimes, as we found out, it’s just a crap shoot,” Rivkin said.
Read Motal’s full article on The Phoblographer, “National Geographic Photographers Talk About Their Scariest Moment,” which includes interviews with Bob Krist and Bob Sacha.