About Bungee Jumping
Perhaps the most daunting of all air sports, bungee jumping revolves around jumping from an extremely tall structure while attached to an elastic cord. The bungee jump is usually made from a fixed position, be it from the top of a building, a crane, or even a large bridge. Additionally, it’s also possible to launch off from a hovering object – such as a helicopter or hot air balloon.
When someone bungee jumps from one of these structures, the elastic cord will stretch and they continue bouncing up and down as the cord continues to recoil until it stops completely. This makes the thrill of the bungee jump appealing both while free-falling, as well as from bouncing when the drop has finished.
The History of Bungee Jumping
The traditional history of bungee jumping prior to what we know it as today, was first seen during the 1950s when a BBC film crew (led by David Attenborough) recorded footage on film taken in Vanuatu. The ‘land divers’ of Pentecost Island would jump from tall platforms made of wood – with vines attached to their feet. This was said to be a test of their courage; a passageway through to manhood.
The very first bungee jump was made by members of the Dangerous Sports Club at Oxford University. On the 1st of April, 1979 in Bristol, they bungee jumped from the 76 metre Clifton Suspension Bridge, but were arrested soon after by police. Nevertheless, they persisted, and continued their bungee jumping endevours with jumps from the Royal Gorge Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge – both in the United States. These jumps were sponsored by the American television programme ‘That’s Incredible’; and thus, the legend of the bungee jump had been created – and was soon to be popularised the world over.
Bungee jumping for commercial purposes started with well-known bungee jumping pioneer AJ Hackett of New Zealand, who made his first initial jump in 1986 from the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland. In the years that followed, Hackett jumped from structures and bridges all around the world – including France’s Eiffel Tower. His attempt to build public interest in the new sport quickly gathered momentum, as he opened the very first commercial bungee jumping site known as the ‘Kawarau Bridge Bungy’ in Queenstown, New Zealand. To this day, Hackett remains active in the bungee jumping industry, with commercial centres in several countries.
Millions of bungee jumps at incredible heights have taken place since its inception as a known sport – despite the obvious dangers that are involved. Those who operate bungee jumping centres must always conform to guidelines which include checking equipment at least twice before each jump, as well as the fittings to ensure safety is always considered. Like most sports, injuries are still possible, and fatalities can occur.
The Biggest Bungee Jumps
A SkyJump was introduced by AJ Hackett to the Macau Tower in August of 2005. This made it the biggest bungee jump in the world at 233 metres – or 764 feet. However, technically the SkyJump is known as a ‘decelerator decent jump’, meaning that it in fact does not qualify as an actual bungee jump. This particular type of jump uses a cable made from steel together with a decelerator system, instead of the traditional elastic rope. Nevertheless on the 17th of December in 2006 the Macau Tower began the operation of a more traditional bungee jump by making the necessary adjustments. Soon after, the Guinness Book of Records declared this jump to be the highest commercial bungee jump in the world.
It would be important to note that Guinness only considers bungee jumps from fixed objects for their records, to ensure that the accuracy is measured correctly. There have been bigger jumps.
In 1989, John Kockleman bungee jumped 670 metres (2,200 feet) from a hot air balloon while in California. This jump was the biggest, until 1991 when Andrew Salisbury recorded a jump of 2,700 metres from a helicopter in Cancun. It was intended to be for a television show and sponsored by Reebok. The entire stretch of the rope was measured to be 962 metres and he arrived safely afterwards.
Conclusively, there is one particular commercial bungee jump that is bigger than all the rest. This is located on the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, USA. The height of the launching platform extends to 321 metres, though this jump is not available often enough to be considered the biggest. Prior to this bungee jumping location, there was a New Zealander by the name of Chris Allum who jumped from the New River Gorge Bridge in 1992, recording a 251 metre jump making it the record for biggest bungee jump from a fixed structure in the world.
Risk and Safety
As noted previously, accidents and injuries can occur with just about any sport. Injuries relating to bungee jumping can actually happen even when the most strictest of safety measures are followed. For example, an accident could occur if the elasticity of the cord has been calculated incorrectly – or even if the harness fails.
Michael Lush suffered multiple injuries which led to his death in 1986, when attempting a bungee jump stunt for a BBC television show. Likewise, Laura Patterson died from severe head trauma after she bungee jumped from the highest level of the Louisiana Superdome in 1997 – colliding into the concrete playing field head first. Laura was one of the members of a team including 16 professional bungee jumpers who were practicing for a half-time show at the Super Bowl.
More recently on New Years Eve in 2011, Australian tourist Erin Langworthy fell straight into the Zambezi River near the Victoria Falls in Africa, when her elastic bungee jumping rope completely snapped. She nearly drowned while attempting to struggle through crocodile infested waters with her feet tied together by the bungee cord. She was fortunate enough to have been able to propel herself to the nearby river bank.
Any injures that do occur regardless of safety precautions are usually found to be related to the increase of intravascular pressure in the upper body when the bungee cord recoils. As such, damage to bungee jumpers’ eyesight is reported to be the most common occurence of injury in the sport of bungee jumping.