Think your job is a test of your bravery…. think again!
Throughout the ages unfortunate souls have been forced to take careers which would leave even the the pluckiest amongst us queuing at the jobcentre come Tuesday morning.
Some of these jobs still exist in some capacity, but for other the fear factor was experienced by those in centuries gone-by.
We take a look at some of the most chilling, terror-inducing, and scariest jobs that have ever existed.
Anyone who has ever watched American hit show Deadliest Catch will no doubt agree that this must surely be amongst the scariest jobs to ever have existed. Whilst fishing is one of the world’s most deadly occupations in general, the brave souls who take on the waters of the Bering Strait off the western coast of Alaska take the danger and terror to a whole new level.
The ferocious seas, relentless storms, and penetrating Arctic cold, combine to create arguably the most inhospitable working environment known to man, where mighty vessels are tossed around by gargantuan waves, and crews grasp on to anything they can to avoid being tossed overboard into the icy depths below.
It takes the steadiest of nerves to operate in this tempestuous environment, which is responsible for a 3rd of all work related deaths in Alaska.
Less commonly known as a resurrectionist, the body snatcher must surely have had one of the most unpleasant and frightening jobs to ever have existed. Try to imagine for a moment that your work day consists of creeping into misty cemeteries in the dead of night, armed with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, and digging up some of the deceased residents therein.
This job rose to its peak during the Victorian era, when scrupulously ambitious physicians employed these macabre practitioners as a way of navigating the country’s strict laws surrounding human dissection. Until 1832, the only bodies that physicians could legitimately work on were the wretches that had been hanged or beheaded: this failed to meet the demand of a population demanding ever greater knowledge of the scientific principles governing the living body.
Andean Truck / Bus Driver
I once had the misfortune of travelling along the aptly named Devil’s Road in the Peruvian Andes; 8 hours of sheer terror, in genuine fear of my life. You see “roads” in the Andes are quite like any other, the majority of them are merely remnants of narrow ledges carved out during the Spanish conquests of the C16th. They are barely large enough to accommodate the vehicle, and are flanked on one side by sheer drops of up to 1000M into the dense jungle below. Hairpin bends are everywhere, and in parts the roads have disintegrated to such an extent that the
wheels on the outside are only partially clinging on to the cliff edge.
Every few meters, ominous Crucifixes are pinned to the side of the cliff; memorials to those drivers and passengers who did not make it to the end
of their journey. As I boarded the coach, the driver solemnly informed me one short 10M stretch of the road claims on average 1 life per week- mostly truck drivers.
How any driver summons the courage to traverse this road of horror day in and day out I don’t know- but it is certainly one of the most nerve shredding and scariest jobs to have ever existed.
Imagine a career in which you are forced to watch the slow and agonising death of your co-workers, before succumbing to the same gruesome end yourself. It was this precise fate which befell the matchstick makers of Victorian Britain.
Matchstick factory workers, who were usually women, were forced to work excruciatingly long days, in filthy cramped and dangerous conditions, surrounded by noxious chemicals and the ever present vision of disease and misery. The chemicals involved in the matchstick making process lead to the most monstrous of illnesses; in particular white phosphorus which is deathly poisonous to humans led to a terrifying condition known as phossy jaw.
This ghastly disease exhibited itself in the swift and relentless rotting of jaw bone, which would cause the most grotesque disfigurement and eventually death if left untreated. The disease would begin inconspicuously enough, with just a dull ache hinting at its presence. This was swiftly followed by swelling of the gums and jaw, abscesses and a foul discharge as well as nightmarish pain, fever, and eventually death. The jaws of those affected would even glow green in the dark an appropriately unusual symptom for such a twisted and macabre disease.
There was however a cure, but it was so gruesome in itself that many couldn’t bring themselves to have it. The only way to halt the necrosis was to have the entire jawbone surgically removed… without any form of anaesthetic; the death rate from phossy jaw was therefore understandably, very high.
Birds Nest Harvester
Birds nest soup is a Chinese delicacy, so called because it is made from the nests of little swiftlet birds, which construct their homes along the inner cliff faces of deep caves in Southeast Asia. Made from the bird’s own saliva, and revered for their supposed health giving properties. These little nests are worth more than their weight in gold, and as a result harvesters are willing to put everything on the line in order to get their hands on them.
They must climb make-shift rickety ladders and hoist themselves on homemade ropes as much as much as 100M above the cliff floor, with only the most basic safety equipment, no harness or safety net.
The extraordinary value of the nests is a reflection of the dangers involved in reaching them, many are killed every year in the attempt and as such, recruits for this most terrifying of roles are hard to come by.