As all of you no doubt have seen by now, there was a slight mishap at the Victoria Falls bungee jumping site this past New Year’s Eve. Seems the 500,000th jump was one too many for the bungee cord and it snapped. (Of course, I’m sure [kind of] that the same bungee cord wasn’t used for all 500,000 jumps.) Amazingly, the young woman survived, despite free-falling ~100 feet (reports say 30-40 meters), head-first, into the Zambezi where she floated semi-conscious into a class 3 rapid, with her feet bound together, in heavy cloth wrappings, and a 30-foot bungee cord still attached to her catching on rocks and fallen trees. Here’s the video in case you’ve missed it or can’t resist compulsively watching it over and over again, imagining yourself (and all of your relatives, especially your children) in that position…
This site offers the best description, including the graphic I’ve pasted below. Part of what saved her is that the cord broke on the rebound, meaning her fall was broken as she reached the bottom of her fall and started to be pulled back up by the bungee. Still, one hundred feet is a hundred feet, and plenty of suicides have occurred with jumpers at that height (think ~10 stories).
What is remarkable to me is that she not only survived the fall, but she survived being tossed around in rapids that she quickly floated into after hitting the water with what amounts to weights around her feet . If you look at this photo of Kevin below at the very same site with the very same gear five weeks ago you can see the heavy rags they wrap around each jumper’s ankles.
I think it’s absolutely amazing that that young Australian woman had the presence of mind to swim through rapids and do things like dive down to un-snag her rope and then command that her rescuers put her on her side so she could cough up all of the water she had inhaled. Here’s an interview with the young woman.
Amazing! After watching Kevin’s flawless bungee jump I was all geared up to do it myself this coming August with Alex and his fiancee (more on that later!!) Stephanie. But, I’ve reconsidered. This comment on one of the articles about the incident sums up my feelings about it now.
As a climber there is no way I would ever entrust my life to equipment used daily by a for profit company. The ropes, bungee cords, ankle attachments, harnesses, etc., are all pushed to the full extent of their capacity. In this case the equipment was pushed too far and it snapped. It seems insane to trust one’s life to a company only interested in making a profit without any reference to know they’re reputation. We research who we buy televisions from, but jumping a couple hundred feet off a bridge…??? She is very lucky to be alive!
The company running the operation has a good reputation and the authorities have assured us that the outfit is safe (see this), but still, I think the climber above has some good points so I’ve crossed bungee jumping off of my bucket list.
Well, on a more personal note, lots has happened during the past couple of weeks and I haven’t had time to blog about it but will soon. We’re only half way through our U.S. trip. Since Monday we’ve been at Stanford University, where Thom is giving a talk tomorrow (see this). Then, we catch a red-eye to Michigan because Thom has meetings all day Friday in East Lansing. Apparently there will (finally) be some snow to greet us during what has otherwise been a very mild winter. I’m looking forward to staying in one place for more than a week!