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Dark sites - personal protection


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Interesting topic as I've been wondering the same after recently starting out with some night sky photography. As a few other posters have mentioned, here in the UK, the more dangerous aspect is probably driving out to some locations. I managed to have three different near-misses with muntjac deer on the back roads of Essex in just one night! They just wander out into the road and then appear to have no idea in which direction to run off.

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I think this 'personal protection' thing is getting pretty weird, folks. If you go for a fight, how will it end? Any weapon you have may be turned on you, or another produced, and up goes the ante. By the far the best weapon to have about you is none, then it won't escalate.

You are more likely to be attacked at a cash point - but how likely is that?

Olly

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If you get approached by three or four guys, forget all you see in the movies.  Even if you are a black belt (I am) you have little chance of fighting off three guys, especially if they are armed in any way.  Forget the Steven Siegal and Bruce Lee films folks.  Hand the stuff over and save your life.

All that said, rather unlikely this will happen in the UK.  A lot of this is as Olly says, an irrational fear of the dark.  But as the OP says, when out "country style" it is unerring the noises you hear.  And that is here in the UK, where there are no harmful animals.  In the USA it is a different thing altogether with Coyotes, Wolves, Bears, Snakes, Alligators and all manner of nasties that can kill...! 

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19 hours ago, johninderby said:

Pepper spray is illegal in most EU countries but legal in France, Italy, Spain and a few others. It is possible to get a license to carry it in Germany and Switzerland but said license is very hard to get.

In the strange world of legal and illegal weapons it is legal to drive your own main battle tank on UK roads if it has rubber pads on the treads and of course gun must be deactivated.

Guaranteed to always give you a vacant parking spot and free road!  😉

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, johninderby said:

Park anywhere you want. Vacant parking spot not needed. 😁

Don't matter: if your favourite spot is taken, just park there anyway! 

 

Returning to the topic at hand, there is the dangers of non-native plants like giant hogweed in the dark, so it pays to gain a bit of familiarity with the site you're at.

As for weapons, there's very little leeway in the UK; everything is a potentially illegal offensive weapon if it can conceivably be used to harm someone, right down to the jelly babies in your pocket if a police officer suspects so. Paradoxically enough, there's quite a few surprisingly dangerous weapons that are perfectly legal to own, as long as you have a good reason to be carrying them - self defence isn't amongst those reasons though! That's quite a subject of its own. 

Just don't mention "butter knife loicences" though 😉

Edited by reezeh
Correcting a spelling
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6 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

I think this 'personal protection' thing is getting pretty weird, folks. If you go for a fight, how will it end? Any weapon you have may be turned on you, or another produced, and up goes the ante. By the far the best weapon to have about you is none, then it won't escalate.

You are more likely to be attacked at a cash point - but how likely is that?

Olly

I'm tempted to find a Crocodile Dundee clip on YT ... "That's not a knife ...  This is a knife ... " etc etc.

I'm a  lone female who feels perfectly happy to wander the countryside alone,  take a telescope out for a little walk at 2am in suburbia to observe something  I can't see from my garden .again alone, and go camping alone. My attitude is that  no UK wildlife will do more than startle me (I could have a heart attack one day when yet  another stupid pheasant crashes up from hiding nearby in blind, inbred panic as I approach) , cattle are the only farm animals to be wary of (and then only some breeds/genders/ages ) and they are easy to spot, even if they are out of sight themselves, they leave pretty obvious clues for you to see ... As far as the natural world goes, I am without doubt the scariest creature for miles around.

As far as the supernatural world goes, ghosts, spirits, elves, whatever I don't believe any of it exists, so no worries there..

People though, are something to be aware of, and are best avoided, simply because the best self defence is to not get into a dangerous situation in the first place.  Practically everyone you ever meet anywhere at  any time will be a decent human being, but you can't tell . I'm not saying  don't go out alone at night , I'm saying be sensible , choose a location thoughtfully, have a 'phone with you, be able to leave quickly if you must, consider what objects you can reasonably have with you could be used in extremis , if you were in fear of your life , as weapons of opportunity. But once you've considered and addressed all of those things, just go out and enjoy the dark. Don't be nervous, do be aware.

Would I hand over my kit if it was that or take on someone who was physically threatening me ? Probably, it would depend on a lot of variables, for instance , if they have a knife, they can have the 'scope .  Despite having trained extensively against attack with a knife during over a decade of studying Aikido (with a little bit of Ju Jitsu, some jo and bo i.e. Japanese short and long staff and Kendo, er ... thrown in 🙂 , and teaching self defence classes) and having faced such an attack with an actual sharp metal pointy knife during my dan grading, the chances of getting badly hurt are just too great.

 

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As I’m a member of the Military Vehicle Trust I’m legally allowed to possess  pretty well any military vehicle or deactivated weapons although common sense would prevent their inappropriate use. You have to be responsible. I’d love to own a tank but not likely due to lack of ££££££££££.

This thread is getting a bit off topic but hey this is SGL so no big deal. 👍🏻😁😁😁

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9 minutes ago, johninderby said:

As I’m a member of the Military Vehicle Trust I’m legally allowed to possess  pretty well any military vehicle or deactivated weapons although common sense would prevent their inappropriate use. You have to be responsible. I’d love to own a tank but not likely due to lack of ££££££££££.

This thread is getting a bit off topic but hey this is SGL so no big deal. 👍🏻😁😁😁

You're free to go off topic in a tank!

😁lly

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UK law (caveat :  I am not a lawyer ! Martial arts students of reputable dojos get this drummed into them though ... ) prohibits the carrying of weapons: big knives, swords, big stick with a nail in it, whatever. If a thing has no use other than a weapon, you cannot lug it around with you. If you have a genuine innocent reason, e.g heading to your regular iaido club night,  you can take your swords there and back, carried safely scabbarded and out of sight in a bag. But that's it.

The definition of a tool's  offensive weapon status is dependent on the situation: a chef can legally carry their knives to work  , a carpet fitter can have a stanley knife in their pocket while working, a camper can have a sheath knife (as long as it is within the law on size )  . But take any of those to the football match, and you have no reason to have it there other than as a weapon. So it becomes illegal.

Everyone is entitled to defend themselves, but the key idea in UK law is that the force you use must be reasonable and proportionate.  If a guy shoulder barges you , you can't (legally) run him over with your tank. On the other hand, if a large angry man comes at you , fists flailing,  you can reasonably pick up a chair and fend him off with it.

If a maniac with an explosive belt, a grenade in each hand and a machete between his teeth is heading down your road though ... rev up that tank ,  your moment has come !

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On 08/06/2021 at 15:30, Maideneer said:

I've had run-ins or near run-ins with both lately.  And thanks, I wasn't specifically referring to guns but more of anything else really...mace / pepper spray, a hunting knife, etc etc

From the sounds of it, many are saying wild animals are not a UK problem, is that really true?  I presumed most of every country has issues with whatever is local to them.  I know around my area, coyotes are sometimes a problem, there have been reports of stray bears roaming around, definitely lots of deer, and who knows what else.

I do appreciate the other advice though about joining a club and going in packs, that's a good idea.  My problem is I am a bit of an introvert and suffer from some social anxiety, so sometimes I have trouble being with other people and I figured astronomy was a good hobby for loner types like myself.

Joining a club could be good idea in your circumstance and an astronomy club can be like no other. Firstly, thinking back to when I was a member of a club and met at a dark site, 'voice recognition' comes into play. Not just because it is naturally dark, but everyone is usually layered up, typically in dark clothing, hats balaclavas etc. Any social anxiety will be overcome, because you will be too preoccupied, engaged in hopefully stargazing and cloud dodging with your colleagues.  You learn a a lot and will become comfortable and at ease with your nocturnal circumstance. Then you may want to pursue going out alone.   

Personally I enjoy solo dark sky trips and become too preoccupied to be concerned about anything else. As soon as you become dark adapted, you transform into one of the 'creatures of the night' anyhow. 

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Risk?  How would you feel about traveling overland at 118 feet per second (36 metres per second?) Take a quick look at something 36 metres away and say to yourself, 'One second.' That is what we do when we travel at the motorway speed limit in France. And we are worried about looking through a telescope at night? This is not a rational risk assessment.

Olly

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Posted (edited)

A long time ago my wife and me went to the brilliant but now sadly gone Starhill Inn in New Mexico (RIP 😢)

Through the day we met a very large 8ft tall Brown bear eating the hummingbird feeders at the ranch house and it was scared away by the owners

That night I was working through my list with a 16” LX200 when we heard a noise in the bushes nearby, I flashed across with a torch and two eyes lit up about 6” apart and ~30ft away, it was probably the bear attracted to the hot chocolate we’d got from the warm room nearby

It scared the hell out of us as it was pitch black, we walked rapidly back to our cabin with torches on and swinging around while singing loudly 

When you look at the pictures in the Ranger Stations of what bears do to cars to get food they don’t look so cute and furry 

Later on that trip we had a bear circling our tent sniffing in Yosemite
Food and cooking clothes were in the bear box nearby so it went and hit that instead, much to our relief as all I had was a small pocket knife 

We and the other campers were banging pans and yelling to drive it away

The USA has liven me truly some stunning views of the sky in beautiful locations while accompanied by bears, coyotes and some truly scary mosquitoes, I understand the need for some form of protection, we took whistles, bear spray and Deet with us everywhere after that, I’d also consider a portable motion sensor alarm if I was deeply into an observing session in some wilderness areas to alert if bigger critters got too close

Next time we’re there we may ask the National Guard to circle our site 😜

 

Edited by SpaceWatcher
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Posted (edited)

None of the Aussies have contributed yet! Seeing as my Mum is one, I feel qualified to speak.

Even the plants there can kill you.

and the birds, and the fish!

Edited by Pixies
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This is a very silly thread. Does SGL always get this silly in the summer months?

Look - no one in the UK should go armed to their preferred dark site, or anywhere else for that matter. There are no dangerous wild animals, and no-one is going to rob you for your astro kit. Robbers want cash or things they can sell quickly, not high end scientific equipment with a limited market.

In other countries where there are bears, wolves and other wild animals, the situation may be different. Those people should probably contact their local wildlife authorities for advice as to what is considered sensible.

It is interesting what obstacles there are for astronomers around the world. Here I'm mostly concerned about the cloudy weather and light pollution. I have enough of a job just getting my kit to work, so I am glad I don't need to worry about what wild animal is stalking me or the armed maniac lurking in the bushes.🙂

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5 minutes ago, Astro Noodles said:

This is a very silly thread. Does SGL always get this silly in the summer months?

Look - no one in the UK should go armed to their preferred dark site, or anywhere else for that matter. There are no dangerous wild animals, and no-one is going to rob you for your astro kit. Robbers want cash or things they can sell quickly, not high end scientific equipment with a limited market.

In other countries where there are bears, wolves and other wild animals, the situation may be different. Those people should probably contact their local wildlife authorities for advice as to what is considered sensible.

It is interesting what obstacles there are for astronomers around the world. Here I'm mostly concerned about the cloudy weather and light pollution. I have enough of a job just getting my kit to work, so I am glad I don't need to worry about what wild animal is stalking me or the armed maniac lurking in the bushes.🙂

I didn't mean for anything to get silly, but as I'm learning this is a very UK-centric board where there's not much to worry about.  Seeing as I'm not from the UK, I wasn't aware those lands were blessed with the privilege of such a level of safety.  Over around these parts, there sure is a larger variety of harmful animals.  Loose bears, fox, raccoons (which are rabid), deer, coyotes, etc. + human beings when let's face it, after midnight the only ones out and about isn't little 5-year-old Sally walking her poodle.

Didn't realize it was such a silly question to more experienced people who may have had further insight, my apologies.

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2 minutes ago, Maideneer said:

I didn't mean for anything to get silly, but as I'm learning this is a very UK-centric board where there's not much to worry about.  Seeing as I'm not from the UK, I wasn't aware those lands were blessed with the privilege of such a level of safety.  Over around these parts, there sure is a larger variety of harmful animals.  Loose bears, fox, raccoons (which are rabid), deer, coyotes, etc. + human beings when let's face it, after midnight the only ones out and about isn't little 5-year-old Sally walking her poodle.

Didn't realize it was such a silly question to more experienced people who may have had further insight, my apologies.

No need to apologise. 

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13 minutes ago, Maideneer said:

Over around these parts, there sure is a larger variety of harmful animals.  Loose bears, fox, raccoons (which are rabid), deer, coyotes, etc.

I know....I watch Alaska Homestead Rescue 😄

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11 minutes ago, Maideneer said:

I didn't mean for anything to get silly, but as I'm learning this is a very UK-centric board where there's not much to worry about.  Seeing as I'm not from the UK, I wasn't aware those lands were blessed with the privilege of such a level of safety.  Over around these parts, there sure is a larger variety of harmful animals.  Loose bears, fox, raccoons (which are rabid), deer, coyotes, etc. + human beings when let's face it, after midnight the only ones out and about isn't little 5-year-old Sally walking her poodle.

Didn't realize it was such a silly question to more experienced people who may have had further insight, my apologies.

Yeah, no need to apologise. I didn't mean that I wasn't enjoying the thread. 😀

You are right, most of us are from the UK and don't need to worry about dangerous wild animals.

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12 minutes ago, Maideneer said:

I didn't mean for anything to get silly, but as I'm learning this is a very UK-centric board where there's not much to worry about.  Seeing as I'm not from the UK, I wasn't aware those lands were blessed with the privilege of such a level of safety.  Over around these parts, there sure is a larger variety of harmful animals.  Loose bears, fox, raccoons (which are rabid), deer, coyotes, etc. + human beings when let's face it, after midnight the only ones out and about isn't little 5-year-old Sally walking her poodle.

Didn't realize it was such a silly question to more experienced people who may have had further insight, my apologies.

No, don't apologize. It turns out that the question carries a lot of baggage which is hugely location-dependent. It's interesting to discover that the world is not homogeneous!

Olly

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30 minutes ago, Pixies said:

None of the Aussies have contributed yet! Seeing as my Mum is one, I feel qualified to speak.

Even the plants there can kill you.

and the birds, and the fish!

OK, lets summarise; if it has a biological structure it will kill you. image.png.d1ecb3b0125980cfd3eb8badd6bcd4fd.png

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