Maybe back in my younger days I’d have given this a try but since I’m on the other side of fifty with various assorted health issues that come with the territory there’s no way in hell you’d ever find me attempting such a stunt.
What is it?
”Okay, first we’re gonna find a really tall structure like a bridge or a cliff or maybe even a crane. Then we’re gonna tie some bungee cords around your ankles and you’re gonna jump off said structure. Then, as you plummet to earth in what seems like a freefall the cords will stretch and seconds before you think your going to be nothing more than a stain on the ground you’ll be snapped back up in the air and sorta be suspended there until all of the energy from the cords is dissipated and you’ll be left hanging in mid air. Then we’ll drag your ass back up to the starting point and you can do it all over again.”
Bungee – A History Lesson
For a glimpse at “primitive” bungee jumping we can thank the likes of David Attenborough and members of the BBC film crew. It seems they were doing some research regarding so called “land divers” located on the remote Pentecost Island in Vanuatu back in the 1950’s. There they discovered that the locals would tie vines around their ankles and jump from wooden platforms as a test of their manhood and to prove themselves worthy when searching for a mate. (I don’t know about you but if that what it takes to get laid on Pentecost Island, count me out.). Anyway, they brought footage of these guys stopping a few feet from certain death back and a fascinated world looked on.
Flash forward to 1979 and a group of fellows that called themselves the “Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club” can be credited with the first modern bungee jump. They did so at the 250 foot Clifton Suspension Bridge located in Bristol. As a reward for their efforts they were promptly arrested by the local constabulary. After getting sprung from jail, they took their act on the road and were soon looking for structures on a worldwide basis.
The first commercial bungee jumps began in 1986 in Auckland, New Zealand and continued to spread as the thrill seekers amongst us began to pony up big bucks for the privilege of having what I’d describe as a near death experience.
In case you were wondering, the highest recorded bungee jump belongs to one Andrew Salisbury who plummeted about 9,000 feet (2,700m) from a helicopter back in 1991. Some bungee enthusiasts contend that this doesn’t qualify since the jump didn’t occur from a standing structure.
As if hurtling towards earth with nothing but glorified rubber bands between you and a very rude awakening wasn’t enough, there are now many bungee variations in which you can test yourself against the forces of nature.
First, you’ve got what’s known as the “catapult” or what many would deem as the “reverse bungee”. In this variation, instead of hurtling down to earth, the person is propelled upwards. This is accomplished by attaching the cords to the jumper and stretching them to their full length. The cords are then released and then Presto! “Look at me mom, I’m flying!”.
Then there’s the trampoline. In this version the jumper is placed and said trampoline and the two cords are attached. The cords are fastened to two poles on either side of the trampoline. As the jumper jumps on the trampoline the cords are tightened and the jumper is able to achieve much greater heights than normal. On a side note, and if memory serves, my kid gave this a shot at the Ohio State Fair a few years back. She didn’t want to do it again.
Finally, there’s what’s known as the “bungee run”. In this version the cords are strapped to the individuals back. They then take off in a full sprint. When the cords are stretched as far as the runner can take them, they are snatched backwards. This is usually done on a padded or protected track to reduce the risk of injury and has become popular at many state fairs and carnivals.
Bungee – Final Thoughts
As I mentioned in the opening, this isn’t for me. At least not any more. But, for you thrill seekers and daredevils out there from what I can determine the risk of injury is rather small and the surge of adrenalin and the sense of excitement one feels is worth the effort.
Ah, to be young again…