What is Bungee Jumping?
Bungee jumping was inspired by the young men who lived on Pentecost Island, an island in the Vanuatu archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean. They demonstrated their manliness by tying vines around their ankles and throwing themselves off wooden platforms. The “Bungee” comes from the name for the strong elastic in the cords that are often used for securing luggage. Now a competitive extreme sport, serious Bungee Jumpers can do flips or other stunts in the air during their jumps.
The first proper Bungee jump was a prank carried out on April Fools’ Day by some Oxford University students, who jumped from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol in 1978. As members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club, they were unharmed by their actions apart from being arrested!
Famous Bungee Jumps
The highest jump ever recorded was located in China at the Macau Tower, where the drop is 233 metres giving the jumper approximately five seconds of falling at 125mph. A slightly smaller jump can be made from the top of the Verzasca Dam in Locarno, Switzerland, and is made famous in the first scene of the James Bond film Goldeneye.
How does a Bungee Cord work?
Several cords are combined together to make a very strong cord, and it can be over 1000 feet long. Most operators still use braided shock-cord, which is made up of many strands of latex which are encased in a tough, durable cover. This cover is secured when the latex is prestressed, maximising the resistance of the cord to being extended, and giving it a better bounce. To prevent accidents of detachment, most bungee operators also provide a body harness, which can act as a back up if necessary for an ankle attachment.
Health and Safety
There is a very low risk (only one in half a million) of dying when doing a bungee jump, and there have only ever been a handful of deaths from bungee jumping, despite the risks involved. Obviously it is not wise to attempt a bungee jump if you are not in good health. Age is not always a barrier to jumping provided your doctor is happy for you to go ahead with it.
It is of course possible to sustain injuries of which the most common are dislocated joints, rope burns, whiplash and back injuries. The most commonly reported complication is damage to eyesight. Due to its increasingly popularity as a sport Bungee Jumping now has a code of safe practice which gives detailed specifications for equipment and guidelines that protect against human error (the BERSA code).
The BERSA code firstly makes sure that all participants are well informed about the risks involved and have adequate insurance. Secondly it ensures there are back up systems in place if any one part of the equipment should fail. Thirdly it evaluates the crew members involved and the equipment to make sure they are of a high enough standard. Bungee jumps are usually restricted to those aged over 14, with children aged 14-16 requiring parental permission.
Photo Credit: Nicolas●B