Even the most-hardened of cynics won’t deny the pluck of Nick Wallenda who walked the highwire across the Niagara Falls. Here we list some other great feats and stunts that stunned the world
The first man to row across the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans
Gerard d’Aboville was 45 when he decided to row across the 6,200-mile wide Pacific Ocean, from Japan to the United States. He had already rowed across the Atlantic, from Cape Cod to the port of Brest, France. But that had been 10 years ago. Sector, his 26-foot rowboat had a watertight living compartment that was a scant 31 inches high, contained a bunk, a one-burner stove, a ham radio, and a telex (both powered by solar panels). Fresh water came from two desalination pumps. He rowed 10 to 12 hours a day — an average of 7,000 strokes per day — braved head-winds that stalled his trip many a time (once for two weeks), 100-miles-per-hour cyclones, and 40-foot waves — cannonballs that sent him hurtling into troughs 30 feet deep. His boat capsized more than 30 times; once he was trapped inside his cabin, upside down for almost two hours with the oxygen almost depleted, before he managed to right the boat. Finally, 134 days since his departure, he reached the shore of a little fishing village of Ilwaco, Washington. He was bruised and weighed 37 pounds less. “I have chosen the ocean as my field of confrontation, my field of battle,” wrote d’Aboville, “because the ocean is reality at its toughest, its most demanding. As my weapons against this awesome power, I have human values: intelligence, experience, and the stubborn will to win.”
The first person to walk a tightrope stretched directly over the Niagara Falls
Nick Wallenda calls himself the “King of the Wire”. No one would contest the claim, for by becoming the first person to walk a tightrope stretched directly over the Niagara Falls on June 15, 2012, he has earned it. It took two years for Wallenda to convince authorities to let him do it. For the walk he was required to wear a safety harness for the first time in his life. He is the seventh generation member of the Flying Wallendas, legendary for the performing highwire numbers without safety nets. Wallenda holds the Guinness World Records for longest and highest bicycle ride on a high-wire (135 feet (41 m) above the ground, 2008), nearly doubling that record in 2010 at 260 feet (79 m). In 2011, Wallenda set a world record by performing on the Wheel of Death atop the 23 story Tropicana Casino and Resort. Wallenda and his mother tightrope walked between the two towers of Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico. The feat was a recreation of the one that had killed Karl Wallenda, Nick’s great-grandfather and “biggest hero in life.” The staunch Christian says his next target is the highwire walk across the Grand Canyon.
Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, The first men to climb the Mount Everest Expedition (May 29, 1953)
“Well, George, we knocked the bastard off,” were the first words that Edmund Hillary told his life-long friend George Lowe upon returning from the summit of the Mount Everest. He could not have said anything less. Theirs was the ninth expedition to the attempt the climb. The icy cold temperatures, the lack of air, the steep, slippery climb, bad weather… the hurdles were numerous. But Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered Everest and spent 15 minutes atop the 29,028 ft (8,848 m) summit. The two made offerings, too: Tenzing left chocolates in the snow and Hillary left a cross that he had been given by John Hunt.
Jukka Viljanen ,The first man to do a solo run across the Sahara Desert
Jukka Viljanen, a 48-year-old adventure runner and ultramarathonist, is the first person to run solo across the Sahara Desert in North Africa completing the 1,600-kilometre distance across the desert in 31 days. The first five days were hard. He developed condition called “runner’s knee”, an ailment that often requires a couple of months of rest to heal, but, as by miracle, the problem sorted itself out. The next 10 days were made hard by sandstorm. Viljanen remembers that there was sand even in the cereal.
The first man to swim across The English Channel
Matthew Webb did not think twice before diving into the sea off the ship Russia of which he was second mate when he learnt that a man fell overboard. The victim could not be saved, but the British press celebrated his bravery and he was awarded the Stanhope Medal. Learning of JB Johnson’s failed attempt to swim the English Channel, Webb decided to attempt it himself. His first attempt on August 12, 1875 was abandoned due to bad weather. On August 24 he made his second attempt during which he was stung by jellyfish, had to brave the strong currents off Cap Gris Nez that kept him from reaching the shore for five hours. But he did it swimming for 21 hours and 41 minutes and swam over 64 kilometres.
With his bare hands and wearing climbing shoes Frenchman Alain Robert scaled 85 giant structures including many of the world’s tallest building. His latest feat is the Guinness World Record he set on April 12, 2012 for climbing the 300m-high Aspire Tower in Doha, Qatar in the fastest time (1 hour, 33 minutes and 47 seconds). Burj Khalifa (Dubai, UAE, 828 metres), Empire State Building (New York City, United States, 381 metres), and Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, United States, 227 metres) are some the many structures he has scaled. By climbing the Singapore Flyer he became the first man to climb around the world’s tallest observatory wheel. He has been arrested several times before, during and after his climbs, he has broken many bones on several occasions and he suffers from vertigo, but the human spider prevails.
Evel Knievel Stuntman
Evel Knievel may be called the granddaddy of all daredevils. Robert Craig Knievel performed over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between 1965 and 1980, and in 1974, an unsuccessful jump across Snake River Canyon in the Skycycle X-2, a steam-powered rocket. He broke 433 bones during his career which earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivour of “most bones broken in a lifetime”. The Times in Knievel’s obituary hailed him as one of the greatest American icons of the 1970s. Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. Knievel’s nationally televised motorcycle jumps were four of the 20 most-watched ABC’s Wide World of Sports events to date.