It is not natural for humans to be teetering, falling, gliding, or have anything to do with high altitudes. Even though we are evolutionarily ill-equipped for such endeavors, mankind has never stopped looking to the sky. In something that resembles a biological drive, humans have been imagining themselves in the atmosphere. Now that our buildings scrape the sky and travelling through air has become a reality, we look for different ways to explore heights and become more closely affiliated to this spiritual (or crazy, depending how you look at it) pull.
10. Nik Wallenda Walks Tightrope Across Niagara Falls
OK, he was forced to wear a tether by his sponsor. For our part, we take him at his word that he would have rather not worn it and acknowledge that he is more than capable of pulling the feat off without the aid of safeguards. Be that as it may, this stunt is relegated to 10th on the list because ABC wasn’t prepared to have millions of people watch Wallenda possibly fall to an early death. Regardless, this high walking stuntman’s accomplishment engaged the imaginations of live viewers at the falls themselves and on worldwide television. Bred from the famous “Flying Wallendas”, a circus family of German descent that spans generations, Nik has many plans for the future. His next feat, if he has it his way, is to traverse the Grand Canyon by way of 2 inch thick wire. Whether he is strapped in or not, we can all respect what he and his family have done for the pushing of human limits.
9. David Blaine’s Vertigo
In 2002, David Blaine performed his endurance stunt known as Vertigo in which a crane lifted him onto a 100 foot pillar in Bryant Park, NYC. He was free-standing on the pillar of only 22 inches in diameter, but had available retractable handles in case weather impaired his ability to balance by himself. He was on the pillar for 35 hours including a chilly May night with high winds to contend with. Blaine was without food and water for the duration of the performance and relieved himself via catheter. He suffered a mild concussion after he jumped down from the pillar onto a pile of cardboard boxes, 12 meters high from the ground.
8. Ormer Locklear: Wind Walking WWI Pilot
Ormer Locklear was the first wind walker and ushered in a new age for aerial maneuvers. He was a dare devil with a love of flying. During World War I, Locklear was a pilot in the US Army Air Service where he would crawl out onto the lower wing of his aircraft to fix mechanical issues on site. After WWI, Locklear took his dare deviling to the next level and formed an air show with his colleagues. He eventually got involved with filming his stunts for the big movies. Alas, his wind walking days came to end during the filming of The Skywayman when his plane crashed killing him and his partner. The crash and all its glory was still featured in the movie.
7. Jeb Corliss BASE Jumps off the Petronas Towers
Jeb Corliss has often had a bit of trouble with his stunts. He has two serious accidents involving flying into a waterfall and striking his legs on a rock ledge. He was also caught trying to BASE jump off the Empire State Building which led to a lifetime ban from the iconic skyscraper and the loss of his job as the host of Discovery Channel’s Stunt Junkies. Tragically, Corliss was showered with the blood of his friend and premiere BASE jumper Dwain Weston when a dual-Wing Suit stunt went wrong. Weston collided with a bridge that Corliss flew under. Despite the bruises to his body, ego, and soul, Corliss has enjoyed many radical and successful adventures. His most notable is his BASE jump off of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, a leap of over 1200 feet. He may be second only to Felix Baumgartner (featured later) when it comes to BASE jumping. To see more of Jeb, check out this YouTube video.
6. The Heroine of Niagara Falls
Annie Edison was the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. In 1901, she performed the stunt on her 63rd birthday. Unlike many failed ventures over Niagara Falls, Annie made sure to test her barrel before going over herself. She sent her cat down the falls and, lucky for the kitty, it survived. After Annie took the successful ride over the falls (with only minor injuries), she stated in a press conference, “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat. I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces, than make another trip over the Fall.” Annie is the first to survive and one of only four people that have survived. Many, many have perished by accident, suicide and unfortunately, on purpose through dare devil stunts. Word of advice: don’t do it.
5. Larry Walter’s Lawn Chair Airship
“Lawnchair Larry” was bored with his life as a trucker. Together with his girlfriend at the time he figured out a way to break the monotony. They inflated and attached 45 weather balloons to a lawn chair, threw Larry in it armed with a pellet gun and radio then cut the cords holding it down. He rocketed upwards at a startlingly high rate of speed, topping out at about a whopping 15,000 feet in the air. Noticing that he was crossing into federal air space, he began to shoot the balloons with his pellet gun before accidently dropping it overboard. Luckily he had taken out enough balloons for a slow descent, but he ended up tangled in power lines. There was a resulting power outage, and Larry was fined for crossing into airspace reserved for commercial use. Sadly, Larry’s 15 minutes of fame was short lived. He became increasingly depressed with life and committed suicide a decade later in 1993.
4. Jeb Corliss Flies Through China’s Tianmen Hole
The Tianmen Hole is in a mountain. This stunt consisted of dropping out of a helicopter, navigating his way through the hole and landing safely on the other side. The Wingsuit resembles and operates much like a flying squirrel spreading its membranes. The landing itself could qualify as a stunt as Corliss landed on a small bridge. Jeb Corliss continues to be a world renowned pioneer in Wingsuit flying and BASE jumping.
3. Philippe Petit’s World Trade Center Walk
French high wire artist Philippe Petit has performed dozens of high wire feats, but in 1974 he did the unthinkable. After six years of planning, Petit walked between the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. Keep in mind this was not a sanctioned event. Before his walk, he snuck into the towers several times as they were being constructed and flew over via helicopter to obtain aerial photos. Petit had to obtain fake ids to get into the tower and somehow transfer all his specialized equipment up to the roof. He even wore similar clothing to building workers. During his high wire walk, Petit walked back and forth between the towers eight times with the performance lasting almost one hour. He also sat on the wire, did little knee dances and laid on the wire. Finally, he moved off the wire into the arms of the police. All charges were later dropped and he was given a lifetime pass to the observation deck of the WTC.
2. Alain Robert Climbs the Burj Khalifa
The planet’s true Spider-man, Frenchman Alain Robert has climbed most of the world’s buildings with little more than climbing shoes and chalk. Probably Robert’s most notable climb to date is that of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He was required to use a safety harness for parts of the trip, but since the entirety of the climb was 828 metres (2,717 ft), we can let him off the hook for this one. From the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower and virtually every notable skyscraper in between, Robert has defied gravity, death, and the law (he has been arrested quite a few times) when it comes to pushing his limits. His climbs are grueling and often afford little rest, so his physical health needs to be kept at its optimum potential. He even wore a Spider-man costume while climbing a building in Paris.
1. Felix Baumgartner: Red Bull Stratos
Over fifty years since the space age officially began, Austria’s Felix Baumgartner became the first human to jump from the edge of space. He plummeted so fast that he became the first human to break the sound barrier without technological aid. The jump was used to record data on creating better pressure suits for high altitude pilots. Baumgartner’s ascent using a helium-filled balloon marked the highest altitude man has achieved by such a means. The jump shattered a record set in 1960 by USAF pilot Joe Kittinger who freefell 31,341m (102,800ft). Kittinger played an integral role mentoring and monitoring Baumgartner for his record-breaking fall. Although his stratospheric skydive is by far his most daring feat, Baumgartner has been testing fate for much of his life. His resume of death defying feats is what qualified him for this project.