The history of bungy jumping

I guess you could say bungy jumping originated as an old tradition on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu except over there it was called land diving.  It is a ritual that has been performed by generations of island men to ensure a good harvest of yams each year and in later years it also began to represent the reaching of manhood.  The main differences between this and modern day jumping is instead of using stretchy bungy cord and a stable jumping platform, vines are tied to the ankles of the brave participants and they jump from rickety towers made from branches tied together by vines.

land diving Vanuatu

The first modern day bungy jumps were performed by members of a group calling themselves the Oxford University  of Dangerous Sports Club in 1979.  These men jumped of different places including the Golden Gate Bridge.  As the years progressed several other jumps were made including from a hot air balloon.  Jumps at this time were done by adrenaline junkies, with make shift gear, jumping from places where they shouldn’t have been.

In 1986 a New Zealander called AJ Hackett and his mate Chris Sigglekow were inspired and began their quest for adventure.  They approached the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, where a formula was formulated for the stretch of bungee cord rubber.  Using this information they got the right length of bungy cord and headed to the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland and both made successful first jumps.  They were both hooked and made several other jumps from different bridges over the next few months.  AJ tested out a new way of jumping where the cord was attached to his feet which went to plan as well as experimenting with different cords.

The Nevis bungy, Queenstown New Zealand

The Nevis bungy, Queenstown New Zealand

On a trip to France in 1988, AJ decided he had to jump from the Eiffel Tower.  A plan was formulated where a team headed to the tower one night.  The girls hid bungee cord under there dresses and in backpacks.  The team managed to evade security and spent a night in sleeping bags up the tower.  In the morning everything was set up and AJ Hackett successfully jumped from the tower.  The jump went to plan, but French police were soon on scene to arrest AJ.  This made headlines world wide and was actually the perfect exposure to this extreme activity that was required to bring it to the masses.

Later the same year on November 12, AJ opened the first commercial bungee jump in the world at the 43m high Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown where 28 people jumped on the first day of operation.  This spot is considered the birthplace of adventure tourism in New Zealand and is still operating today with an estimated 500 000 people visiting the site every year.

From then on bungee jumping has spread to hundreds of spots around the world, many of them under the AJ Hackett name.  A second 134m jump opened in 1999 in Queenstown called the Nevis which at one stage was the highest commercial jump in the world.  Now a few place offer jumps over 200m including Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa (220m),  the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland (220m) and the Macau Tower in China (233m).

Macau Tower China, bungee jump

Macau Tower China, bungee jump

AJ has continued to push the limits over the years including jumping from a helicopter and the Sky Tower in Auckland.  He has designed a guide cable on some bigger jumps to stop jumpers bouncing into the side of a building.  He continues to open new sites around the world.  A third jump has even been added to the line up in Queenstown.

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