Nik Wallenda walks the falls

Here’s a video of Nik Wallenda’s 1800-foot tightrope walk across Niagara Falls Friday evening.

Granted, he’s wearing a safety harness, by stipulation of the ABC television network, but it’s pretty amazing nonetheless.  He’s walking at night, and through heavy mist.

From the New York Times:

Some numbers: Mr. Wallenda is 33 years old, a seventh-generation acrobat who first tackled a tightrope at age 2. He crossed 1,800 feet of wire in a little over 25 minutes, ending just after 10:30 p.m. Friday, suspended 200 feet above the gorge and becoming the first person to walk directly over the falls. Five of his forebears have perished performing such stunts.

. . . Afterward, he promised to follow up his exploit with a walk across the Grand Canyon in the next few years.

That should be something, for a Grand Canyon travers has never been done.

36 Comments

  1. Woof
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Too bad Evel won’t be around to see that…

  2. gbjames
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Science can’t prove that God didn’t intervene to get him across!

  3. the Siliconopolitan
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Really? I thought David Copperfield had walked across the canyon.

  4. Filipe
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s a stupid thing to do. Why do people praise individuals risking their lives in such futile endeavors?

    • gbjames
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      He wasn’t really risking his life. He had a safety harness.

      • Posted June 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Filipe is right, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m impressed. It must be genetically ingrained in our species.

        • gbjames
          Posted June 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          Well, yes. Things that are not life threatening can still be impressive. I’m especially impressed by Verdi’s ability to create his Reqieum.

          • Occam
            Posted June 17, 2012 at 1:39 am | Permalink

            Verdi is not quite innocuous, either.
            While I have no direct recollections of deaths during his Requiem, I remember quite vividly Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli collapsing with a fatal heart attack on the podium while conducting Verdi’s Aida at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in 2001.
            His colleague Giuseppe Patanè succumbed similarly while conducting Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia at the Munich State Opera in 1989.
            Said Opera house is particularly lethal: both Felix Mottl, in 1911, and Joseph Keilberth, in 1968, collapsed with fatal heart attacks while conducting Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
            But then, I always found Wagner deadly.

            Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leonard Bernstein’s predecessor at the New York Philharmonic, died during a 1960 La Scala rehearsal of Mahler’s Third Symphony. Eduard van Beinum, of Concertgebouw fame, collapsed in Amsterdam in the same year while conducting a rehearsal of Brahms’s 1st Symphony. Franz Konwitschny, chief conductor at the Semperoper Dresden, died in a TV studio in 1962 while rehearsing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

            The great Latvian Arvid Jansons, chief guest conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, collapsed while conducting in Manchester in 1984. His even greater son, Mariss Jansons, had the closest shave in Oslo in 1996, suffering a massive heart attack while conducting the final pages of Puccini’s La Bohème; he was resuscitated in extremis, and later implanted with an in-thorax defibrillator. So the Wallendas are not the only ones with a history of familial exposure to occupational hazards.

            As far as I am concerned, I cannot help considering the performances the above guys gave, when they kicked the bucket, a somewhat greater gift to humanity than the walking of the tightrope for the greater glory of a figment of the imagination. This latter activity I would classify in the same category with the religious handling of venomous snakes.

    • Caroline52
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      How is it different from our response to any other sport? We are impressed and excited by downhill ski racers, stunt skateboarders, surfers, mountain climbers, boxers, nfl football players (even though we now know they can eventually get degenerative brain damage from repeated concussions). One man’s “pointless endeavor” is another man’s “spectator sport.” it’s just a matter of which sports you happen to have a taste for.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 17, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

      What makes you think it was futile? He survived, and (presumably) was well paid for it, or at least got a boatload of free publicity for his act. I see plenty of upside here for Wallenda and his inclusive fitness.

      • Posted June 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Occam: My favourite Mass is The Mozart Requiem.
        Have you anything to report on that, other than Mozart himself croaking before the Requiem was completed, leaving his pupil, Sussmayr, to finish it.

        • gbjames
          Posted June 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

          That was my favorite until Verdi’s took the slot. I like that Verdi was a non-believer. But both of these are on my “desert island” list. At the top.

          • Occam
            Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

            Isn’t it striking that Verdi became, very early in life, a fervent anti-clerical, and at least a dour agnostic if not an outright atheist, and yet at the same time created musical masterpieces in the highest Catholic tradition? So much for the argument that the irreligious cannot penetrate spiritual works of art, let alone create them.

            Two sidenotes:
            1. The Responsorium of the Messa per Rossini of 1869, never performed in Verdi’s lifetime, contains the blueprint for the Libera me of the 1874 Messa di Requiem, this time dedicated to Alessandro Manzoni. It was first perfomed and recorded by Helmuth Rilling and his Gächinger Kantorei in 1988.

            2. The grimmest performances of Verdi’s Requiem must have been the ones conducted by Rafael Schächter at the Theresienstadt/Terezin ghetto, 1943-44. Schächter, who had only one piano score at his disposal, worked under unimaginable conditions: most of his vocalists appear to have been deported to their deaths in Auschwitz after each performance. Schächter is quoted as saying “We can sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.” If true, this would denote a belief in eschatological justice, as well as in the force of art, which probably would have mystified Verdi.

            I am not aware of any tightrope walking acts in the Nazi camps. I assume surviving one hour at a time was thrilling enough.

        • Occam
          Posted June 18, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

          ”My favourite Mass is The Mozart Requiem.
Have you anything to report on that…?”

          Not much in this context that is not of public notoriety, alas, whether fact or myth.

          One near-casualty is on record: Joseph von Eybler, Mozart’s friend and colleague, who was Constanze Mozart’s first port of call for completing the Requiem after Mozart’s death. Eybler refused, so Constanze asked Mozart’s pupil Süssmayr, who complied. Eybler survived Mozart by many decades. In 1824, he succeded Antonio Salieri as chief conductor of the Wiener Hofkapelle. As such, he conducted Mozart’s Requiem in 1833, and promptly suffered a near-fatal attack of apoplexy. Eybler survived, although paralysed, and died only in 1846, aged 81.

          One sidenote: there is a remarkable 1997 recording of Mozart’s Requiem by Hellmuth Rilling and the Stuttgart Bach Orchester without Süssmayr’s additions. Instead, Rilling took on the suggested completion imagined by musicologist Robert Levin.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 17, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Really? Are you all so jaded that you can not appreciate someone doing something very well? Difficult physical feats are not worthy of appreciation? Futile? Pretty much everything you do in life is futile, if you wish to look at it in that way. Life would be real boring without the occasional adrenaline rush. You should try it some time.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      “Why do people praise individuals risking their lives in such futile endeavors?”

      As a tribute to the skill, training, and mind-set required for said endeavors. We praise the people who transcend the apparent limits of human ability in order to approach the actual ones.

  5. MadScientist
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The grand canyon one would be interesting; I wonder how frequently they get periods when it’s not windy.

    @Filipe: It must be the same reason people go “oh, isn’t that cute” when they see a monkey doing silly things.

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    What sorta span is he talking about with the Canyon? Even if you could string a cable strong enough to make the span, how would it not sag so much as to be be impossible to descend/ascend at the ends? Not to mention winds and sway, especially when out in the middle.

    And what are those vertical things hanging down from the wire in the video? Distance markers?

  7. Posted June 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:
    OK, this is amazing!

    Although, Nik might end up winning a Darwin Award. It is impressive.

    Enjoy

    Ghost

  8. Sunny
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know what he is mumbling?

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      He talks to a TV crew for a minute or so: otherwise, he’s praying.

    • Marta
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Yes. I know what he was mumbling. After he said “Bless you, Lord Jesus”, I switched channels, and tried extremely hard not to pray, myself, that he would lose his footing and slip off the wire. Yes, yes, I’m a terrible person. Sue me.

      • Gareth Price
        Posted June 16, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Beforehand he was asked how he would make it across and he replied something like “Through the righteousness of God in Jesus”. At the end he was asked what it had taken to get across and he said something like “Lot’s of training”.
        That aside, it was pretty impressive.

        • Neil
          Posted June 16, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

          If he tries it without a balance pole, all the prayer in the world will not help.

          • Posted June 17, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

            Yes, I’m taking a conceptual physics class (many years after high school physics) and I just learned why that pole helps.

            In case someone here doesn’t know either, the pole slows down his rotational motion. The heavier it is on the ends, the better.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted June 17, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

              That’s not all the pole is good for. The drooping ends lower the center of gravity of the man-with-pole system, making him more stable on the wire.

              He can also shift the pole left or right to keep his CG centered over the wire.

              So it’s not just that the pole passively resists rotation, but that the pole’s inertia acts as a buffer into which the walker can actively dump momentum at need along several axes.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:40 am | Permalink

        That was my immediate reaction when I first heard about it. ‘Hope he falls off’, that is. In my defence, it was more aimed at debunking ‘Jesus saves’, rather than any wish to see the guy buy it.

        I must admit, having seen a brief clip on the news, I have a certain respect for him. And I’d be willing to believe he really didn’t want a safety wire and the TV channel forced it on him. Pity he can’t take the credit himself and has to give it to his fairy friend.

  9. stephen castleden
    Posted June 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Philippe Petit in “Man on Wire” is the true artist, a fabulous documentary, must be seen. He secretly gained access to the roof of twin trade towers and walked the rope between the two buildings for 40 minutes or so (I think).

    • Nom de Plume
      Posted June 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

      Philippe Petit in “Man on Wire” is the true artist

      Yes, thank you. I’m not telling anyone else to risk their life for my amusement, but if you do it with a harness, you risk nothing.

      • Posted June 17, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Exactly.

        Which is why you should work with a harness only at crazy dangerous venues, so people will think you are actually doing something truly courageous.

        And with the help of Jesus, new opportunities for doing something mind-boggingly dangerous in complete safety are now available.

        Why, Nik Wallenda could walk a wire across the gaping maw of Satan’s fire-filled lake of fiery fire so long as he had Jesus, and an industrial quality harness safety system, to guide him across.

        That would make him an even bigger hero than Niagara falls.

      • gravelinspector
        Posted June 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        but if you do it with a harness, you risk nothing.

        Not strictly true.
        Harnesses do break. Not often, but they do break.
        Much more often, they’re put on wrongly, or adjusted incorrectly. I’ve seen professional rope-access workers start off with incorrectly fitted equipment. “Buddy checks” are recommended but don’t necessarily get the care and attention they should get. (As an amateur user of the same “Silly Rope Tricks,” SRT, I’ve done the “Stercus stercus stercus, moritorimus sum” moment too. In Yorkshire, it’s a “straw-clencher”.
        Wires, and their anchor placements, can fail. It shouldn’t happen, but people do skimp on ropes all the time.
        Even if the harness works successfully as designed … there are deaths every year from “suspension injury”. A person suspended immobile in a harness can die from blood pressure variation, or some form of blood poisoning (there may be several syndromes at work under the same name ; it’s not clear) in as little as 15 minutes. Again, the professional rope workers should be well aware of this (I think it’s in the IRATA level 1 training syllabus), but other people who work in harnesses rarely know about it. We had a 1/2-hour training session on it last month on the rig, run by the rig’s medic. Who unfortunately got it quite severely wrong, and had to be corrected by myself and the rig’s rope-access supervisor working independently.
        I’m sure there are other failure modes possible. The risk assessment for this sort of thing should take days, not minutes in a blog post.

        I’m intrigued – slightly – by the proposal to “wire” the Grand Canyon. How wide is the narrowest span? How good is the rock for the anchorages? Is there a material with an appropriate strength : weight ratio and appropriate density (cheese-wire effect!) to complete a single span? Or would he have to “taper” the wire with lateral tensioning wires (which would also reduce the sway in the wind)? How much sag will there be?
        @Filipe : It’s definitely a hazardous sport (or employment) ; (correct) use of (appropriate) harnesses will (should) substantially reduce the risk (hazard * probability), but risk never goes down to zero. Risk of breathing never goes down to zero either. Your approach to the level of risk you’re willing to tolerate, but don’t ever fool yourself that anything is ever “absolutely” safe.
        Which reminds me – I’ve got to do a risk-assessment for a geology society field trip ; cliffs, steep grassy path-less slopes, tides … and miles from the nearest road, to add to the entertainment. I hope we don’t get too many elderly takers if I do formally propose the trip.

        • gravelinspector
          Posted June 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          For future reference … if wordpress accepts the UL and LI HTML markup, they use their own idiosyncrasies.
          I really should try to find their guide for formatting, but I shouldn’t need to!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

          The Grand Canyon struck me as strange too. To the outer rim (which is what most people would consider the ‘width’) it’s typically 5+ miles across. Of course much lesser spans can be attained by descending into the canyon and just crossing the inner gorge, but that’s not what immediately springs to mind in ‘crossing the Grand Canyon’.

    • L.W.
      Posted June 17, 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      And he had no safety harness.

  10. Posted June 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone notice that in between his mantras praising Jesus, he mentioned that wearing his jacket made him “feel like a jack-off”?


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