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Some of the Riskiest Acts Ever Performed

Following Nik Wallenda’s extraordinary tight rope walk 200 feet above the Niagara Falls, we decided to revisit some of the people who captured the whole world’s attention with their risky, extraordinary, dangerous and above all, awesome actions.

Philippe Petit – Tight Roped Between Twin Towers

Philippe Petit became famous for his incredibly dangerous and illegal tight rope walk between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center.

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Petit decided to attempt the walk after reading about the yet to be built twin towers in a magazine. The whole process took six years of planning, during which Petit studied every possible thing about the towers including the amount they would sway in the wind. The Frenchman took a number of trips to New York, and snuck into the buildings while they were still being built to observe the amount of security in place. After observing the security measures and the design of the towers himself, and having American photographer, Jim Moore take aerial photos of them, Petit made a model of the two building to help design the rigging his walk would require.

August 7, 1974 was the day Petit planned for “Le Coup”, what he called his walk. The night before, using fake identification cards Petit had created, he and his crew went up to the 104th floor of one of the towers and stored all his equipment. To get the cable from one tower to the next, Petit settled on using a bow and arrow to first shoot a fishing line across the huge void. With the fishing in line in place, they were then able to pass along larger and larger ropes across until finally the 450 pound steel cable was able to be passed across.

A little after 7:15 am on the day of Le Coup, six years of planning finally came to a close as Petit stepped off the South Tower and onto the steel cable that connected the two buildings. Petit was far too crazy to merely walk across from one tower to the next one time, so instead he proceeded to not only make eight crossings between the towers, but also sit on the wire, make knee salutes, and lie on the wire to speak with a bird that was circling above his head.

Petit’s incredible feat drew crowds, and since it was illegal, the police. While Petit had initially resisted his imminent arrest by simply not getting off the wire, when it started to rain he decided he had risked enough and stepped off the wire and into handcuffs. Petit gained fame throughout the world as images and videos of his walk were transmitted all around the world. Thanks to the huge coverage and the public’s appreciation of what he had done, all charges against Petit were dropped as he became a worldwide superstar.

Following his successful walk Petit went on to do a number of other high profile walks, and wrote a book about his Twin Towers walk called, To Reach the Clouds. Following the release of his book, an Oscar winning documentary directed by James Marsh called Man on Wire was released, reigniting the public’s awe at what Petit had done and thrusting him back into the limelight.

Joseph Kittinger – Highest Parachute Jump

On August 16, 1960, Colonel Joseph Kittinger set the world record for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute drogue fall (the deployment of a parachute from a fast moving object) and the fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere in an incredible act of true fearlessness.


Kittinger’s jump was part of Project Excelsior, a United States Air Force project created to design a parachute system that would enable pilots to have a safe and controlled descent following an ejection from a high altitude.

Kittinger took part in three test jumps, the first of which nearly killed him. After jumping from an altitude of 23,287 meters one of the parachutes deployed prematurely and caught Kittinger around the neck. This caused him to spin at a stomach-churning 120 revolutions per minute and lose consciousness. Luckily he was saved by his main parachute which automatically opened at a certain altitude.


While most people would give up after facing a near death experience, Kittinger continued on. After a successful second jump, Kittinger took part in his third and final jump that would go on to break three world records. During his ascent to the third jump, the pressure seal in Kittinger’s right glove failed and due to the exposure of his hand to the extremely low pressure it expanded to twice its normal size. Due to the immense pain, Kittinger lost the use of his right hand but continued his ascent. When he finally reached his peak altitude of an out of this world (literally) 31,333 meters, Kittinger waited 12 minutes before the balloon drifted over the landing target area before stepping out of the transport gondola and beginning his fall.


Kittinger free fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds before his first parachute opened, and after opening his main parachute he landed safely in the New Mexico desert. The whole fall took 13 minutes and 45 seconds, during which Kittinger experienced temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius and a top speed of 988 km per hour.


Kittinger’s jump was well and truly insane, and the three records that he broke still remain unbroken 52 years after he free fell into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan – Highest BASE Jump

With an estimated fatality rate of one per sixty participants, studies have shown that BASE Jumping is officially the most dangerous recreational activity in the world. Essentially it involves an individual jumping from a fixed object, and after free falling for a short period of time, using a parachute to break their fall. Considering it’s the most dangerous recreational activity in the world, holding the record for the highest BASE jump well and truly makes you, for lack of a better phrase, a bad-ass.


Two people, a husband and wife hold the record for the highest BASE jump. Together Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan jumped off a 6,604 meter high cliff on Meru Peak in north India. Apart from the jump itself, the way the couple got to the cliff is also pretty impressive. The pair and their 13 man entourage hiked twenty-two days and at times only progressed 50 meters a day in -20 degree weather.

At one point during the hike, one of their group, an Australian BASE jumper, Jimmy Freeman succumbed to altitude sickness. Rather than trekking down the mountain like any normal individual, he jumped off the side of the mountain and paraglided to a lower altitude.

On May 23, at 2:04 PM after their 22 days of hiking and six years of preparation the pair donned their wingsuits, designed to mimic gliding possums, and launched themselves off the cliff and into the clouds.


After about 35 seconds, the couple hit incredible horizontal speeds of almost 200 km/h and vertical speeds of 50 km/h, and after a minute and 20 seconds opened their parachutes and touched down after approximately two minutes of flight.

What makes their feat even more impressive (as if it’s not impressive enough) is that Swan had previously overcome her fear of heights to take up BASE jumping.


Evidently, jumping off the top of at 6,604 meter cliff wasn’t enough to satisfy the couple’s ambitions as they now have plans to launch a wing suit from 12,000 meters and proceed to fly 30 kilometers before opening a parachute and floating back down to the ground.

Herbert Nitsch – Deepest Free Dive

Free diving is one of the most dangerous sports around. Diving deep into the ocean without any external source of oxygen is an impressive feat no matter the depth, but diving down 244 meters in one breath is nothing short of extraordinary.


The only man who’s free dived down 244 meters is Austrian Herbert Nitsch. On June 6, 2012, Nitsch beat his former world record and cemented his title as the “Deepest Man on Earth” with his incredible dive.


The type of free diving Nitsch participates in, No-Limits Apnea, is the most dangerous out of all the free diving techniques. It involves the use of a weight, in Nitsch’s case, the yellow sled, as a method to aid the diver’s descent. Once the diver is at the desired depth, he’s then allowed to use whatever method he wants to propel himself back to the surface. Due to the extreme depths reached, and the high risks posed at those depths, many organizations refuse to endorse No-Limits Apnea because it’s simply too dangerous.


Nitsch’s technique involved a lot more than simply taking a deep breath before his descent. In preparation for the dive Nitsch trained his body to survive on tiny amounts of oxygen to ensure that he was able to successfully complete the dive. While normal human beings, on average, have a lung capacity of about 4-6 liters, Nitsch has a capacity of 15 liters. Immediately before the dive, while on the surface Nitsch got as much air as he could into his lungs and then descended down to 16 meters. At this point he actually exhaled all the air into an Equex bottle which stored all the air he exhaeld. As he began his descent with essentially no air in his lungs, Nitsch pulled air out of the Equex bottle sip by sip in order to preserve air as well as equalize as he descended to ensure that he was able to get to the bottom in one piece.

While Nitsch did ultimately reach his desired depth of 244 meters, on reaching the surface he fell sick due to his rapid ascent. He then had to be put in a decompression chamber and after was treated in an intensive care unit, highlighting the danger of what he does.

Despite the obvious risk factor, Nitsch has no plans of stopping free diving anytime soon and wants to go even deeper than he’s already been to ensure that he stays the Deepest Man on Earth for a while longer.

Honourable Mention

Crazy Frenchman

This man hasn’t received any medals for his act of insanity, and it surely won’t go down as one of humanities greatest feats, but regardless, what this Frenchman does is dangerous and ridiculous.

For whatever reason, this man and his friends decide to climb a 200 meter crane in La Defense, Paris, apparently without any safety mechanisms. As if that isn’t enough to scare even the bravest people, our ‘hero’ decides to have an impromptu workout and proceeds to perform the most dangerous pull ups, ever. With 200 meters of nothingness below him, you have to give him props for seemingly having no fear.

Watching the video itself is enough to get anyone’s palms sweaty, making it even more impressive that the man in the video doesn’t slip and ends up surviving his high risk workout session.

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