Note to Self: Bungee Cords Do Occassionally Break

Despite being a vertical sports enthusiast, I have never been a fan of bungee jumping. Besides the fact a commercial bungee jump blows your whole emotional and financial wad in a matter of 10 seconds, I just can’t get comfortable with the idea that it’s safe. Using the same equipment, over and over again, amidst so many dynamic forces seems like an accident waiting to happen. But as any bungee professional will tell you, millions of people bungee around the world each year, and rarely does anything go awry. “Bungee cords NEVER break,” a guide told me once. “It’s like a climbing rope. There’s all this hoopla about breaking strengths and fall capacity, but do you ever hear of a rope breaking?”

Well, I never have heard of a climbing or rappelling rope breaking, and this argument, along with the omnipresence of bungee facilities in tourist traps around the world, led me to finally bite the bullet and take on a bungee jump a few years ago. I told myself I wasn’t bungeeing for the thrill, but rather for the peace: I wanted to see how calm and still I could be while stepping off a 400-foot precipice. As it turned out, it was a really fantastic experience, far from what I expected. But afterward, I still felt skeptical about the bungee jumping concept.

Its seems silly to compare climbing ropes and bungee cords. When we climb, we frequently work the entire rope through our hands; even if we aren’t inspecting the rope constantly, we feel its texture, see its wear, feel its tension and resistance against our bodies. The bungee cord, on the other hand, is so long and thick and woven that it seems really difficult to get a sense of how strong it is, or how its integrity might be changing. I’m speaking out of ignorance, of course – I’m NOT a bungee professional in any sense, and someone familiar with bungee cords probably could explain it all to me. But nevertheless…

Ever since, I’ve kept an eye out for bungee jumping accidents, examples of all my worst bungee fears coming true. And today, I found a chilling example of bungee failure, caught on video, with an astounding it-was-all-okay-in-the-end ending. This woman’s bungee cord snaps, she falls into the river, separates her shoulder, sustains all sorts of friction injuries, and she still manages to haul herself out of the water. Yikes! It’s straight out of a Hollywood adventure flick.

Admittedly, this seems to be an isolated incident; if bungee cords were snapping all over the place, there would be far less bungee businesses around. But I’m still glad Springdale has not become an adventure capital, with bungee and jet boats and helicopter rides… there is enough adventure around here without people falling from the sky every five minutes or so.

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About Nick

Nick Wilkes found ZAC in 1996, working first as an outfitter, then a guide, then as webmaster. An ardent adventure enthusiast, Nick's recent exploits involve laying down roots in Wisconsin, chasing his kids around the house, working as a Madison, WI photographer and growing his Wisconsin climbing business. Connect with Nick on Facebook, Google+, or directly via email.
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